Coping with shortness of breath

shortness of breathShortness of breath is something that we’ve all experienced. Typically this occurs when we exert ourselves, like running up a few flights of stairs. The feeling subsides quickly with rest. However, for many, shortness of breath is a daily struggle. It is estimated that 15%-55% of cancer patients experience shortness of breath, or dyspnea (the medical term.)

Dyspnea is described as an inability to get enough air, a feeling of smothering, tightness or suffocation. In cancer patients, it can be caused by the cancer or cancer treatment, or:

  • anemia
  • fluid build- up in the space between the lungs
  • tumor blocking the airway
  • radiation pneumonitis (inflammation of lungs caused by radiation therapy)
  • pneumonia
  • anxiety and stress

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