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Symptom Management:

Symptom Management

Side Effects of Treatment
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Appetite Loss
Bladder Disturbances
Incontinence - Urinary
Dryness of the Mouth
Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances
Flu-like Syndrome
Hair Loss
Menopausal Symptoms
Nausea & Vomiting
Neurological Disturbances
Spinal Cord Compression
Peritoneal Effusions
Shortness of Breath
Skin Conditions
Sleep Problems (Insomnia/Oversleeping)
Sore Mouth
Bone Metastases
Sexuality Issues
Sexual Dysfunction
Risk of Pleural Effusion

Symptom and Description Pleural effusions are a common problem in cancer, although pleural effusions can arise in people with other illnesses. A pleural effusion occurs when fluid collects in the space around the lungs. When this happens, the lungs cannot fully expand, and breathing may become difficult and painful. Pain, shortness of breath, and lung infections can occur if an effusion increases in amount or is left untreated.

Learning Needs The most important thing you can do is to learn the symptoms of pleural effusions. You should report any of these symptoms to your doctor or your nurse:

  • Shortness of breath
  • The need to breathe fast
  • A dry cough
  • Chest pain, which may be slight or severe. The pain may be worse when you lie on one side or the other.
  • Fever

A small number of patients never have any symptoms.

Management If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor may want to see you. The doctor will order a chest X-ray film to see if there is fluid on the lung. If fluid is seen or suspected, a thoracentesis is done. This test removes fluid from the space around your lung. Many times, people breathe easier when the fluid is removed.

If you are short of breath or if breathing is difficult or painful, there are things you can do to help yourself breathe easier.

  • Some positions allow your lungs to better expand. Sit upright, lean forward, and rest your forearms on a table.
  • Sleep with the head of the bed raised or use pillows to raise your upper body. Some people are more comfortable sleeping in a recliner.
  • Save your energy. Do chores early in the day (bathing, stair-climbing). Take time to rest and relax.
  • The doctor may prescribe oxygen to help you breathe.
  • Take your pain medication. Some medicines help to relax you and help you breathe easier.
  • There is no special diet to follow. Small frequent meals (up to 6 meals per day) might be easier for you and may tire you less.
  • Drink 2 to 3 liters of fluids per day, unless your doctor or nurse tells you differently.

Follow-up The fluid is sent to the lab for more tests. The doctor will talk to you about further treatment when those results are in. Let your doctor or nurse know if the symptoms are getting worse.

Empower yourself with information.  Knowledge is power.
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2004 2nd Cancer Opinion USA