Shortness of breath, also called dyspnea, is a common symptom of pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma and occurs in the pleura which is the outer lining around the chest cavity. Pleural mesothelioma often affects a patient’s lung function.

Tips for Dealing with Breathlessness

Shortness of breath can keep you from carrying out your normal activities, cause you to feel more stress, and discourage you from getting enough exercise. It’s important to take care of this mesothelioma symptom before it affects your health. Below are some steps you can take to breathe easier with pleural mesothelioma.

  • 1
    Talk to Your Doctor
    Your doctor will be able to diagnose the exact reason you are feeling breathless and treat the cause as well as the symptom. Don’t avoid telling your doctor or nurses about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Breathlessness is often caused by fluid built up around your lungs (pleural effusion). Your doctor may be able to drain this fluid and potentially insert a chest tube for continued draining.
  • 2
    Take Your Time
    You may need to move slower with pleural mesothelioma. Set aside longer amounts of time for your tasks like bathing, shopping, and cooking so you don’t feel rushed. Take your time getting out of bed: try sitting up on the edge of the bed for a while before you stand up. Keep the items you need most close to you to avoid getting up too many times.
  • 3
    Ask For Help
    Some people don’t like asking for help, but your friends, family, and community could help you complete some tasks that cause breathlessness. Someone could help out by doing your shopping or cooking meals for you. There are also ommunity organizations that deliver meals to patients in need. You could try online shopping and have groceries, meals, and other items delivered to your home.
  • 4
    Sleep Differently
    Propping yourself up on pillows, or any other way, may help you breathe easier at night. Having good airflow in your room may help as well: try opening your window or keeping a fan on at night. Keeping a cool mist humidifier near your bed may also help.
  • 5
    Adjust Your Diet
    Cooking and eating may be more difficult if you’re experiencing shortness of breath. Buy foods that are easy to make such as frozen foods or ready-made meals. If you’re having trouble chewing or swallowing try taking smaller mouthfuls and eating small meals more often instead of large meals. You can also try drinking nutritious drinks throughout the day like these healthy smoothies for mesothelioma patients.
  • 6
    Get a Personal Fan
    In some cases, a fan can be as helpful as oxygen. Having cool air blowing on your face may help you breathe. A personal fan can be small enough to carry in your pocket and cheap enough to keep a few of them around the house. Turn the fan on and aim it at your nose and mouth when you are feeling breathless.

Why You Should Treat Your Breathlessness

Your doctors and nurses can help you manage your mesothelioma symptoms. You should report breathlessness to your doctor so you can get treatment.

Patients with shortness of breath experience physical, psychological, and social effects.

Shortness of breath can affect your health. It can also keep you from performing your normal tasks and getting enough exercise. Psychologically, breathlessness can cause stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, breathlessness is a common side effect of anxiety as well. Not being able to breathe can be scary.

Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicines or techniques that will help you breathe better and relax more.

Patients may also feel social pressure if they can’t do the same things they used to. You may not be able to perform your job as well or feel isolated from others because you don’t think they can relate. If you are struggling with your breathlessness be sure to take measures to treat it. You don’t need any more stress in your life and you deserve relief.

Causes of Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath in mesothelioma patients is most commonly caused by pleural effusion. Pleural effusion in a buildup of fluid in the chest cavity. This fluid puts pressure on the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe.

Mesothelioma can cause shortness of breath in several other ways as well. Pleural thickening can restrict chest wall mobility. Tumors can tighten around the lungs. Fluid can build up around the heart, called a pericardial effusion. Other problems such as anemia, chest infections, pulmonary embolus, or pre-existing lung disease can also cause shortness of breath.

All of the causes of shortness of breath need to be diagnosed by a medical professional. A mesothelioma specialist will be able to address your symptom the best. While there are several ways to ease breathing without a doctor’s help, only a doctor can diagnose the cause. Learning the cause of your breathlessness will help you and your doctor decide the best ways to deal with it.

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Show Sources & Author

  1. Breathing problems with cancer: How you can help yourself. Cancer Research UK. Retrieved from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/breathing-problems/treatment/how-to-help-youself. Accessed: 6/28/17.
  2. Pain and symptom management in pleural mesothelioma. Presented at the Meso Foundation Symposium 2006. Retrieved from: http://www.kintera.org/atf/cf/%7BEB9EC12A-9F10-428A-A38D-189F567FA6A5%7D/Helen_Clayson_MD_wm.pdf. Accessed: 6/28/17.
  3. Does the use of a handheld fan improve chronic dyspnea? A randomized, controlled, crossover trial. U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20471544. Accessed: 6/28/17.

About the Writer, Jamie Iovino

Jamie Iovino is the senior writer at Mesothelioma Guide. She creates and edits pages to make sure mesothelioma patients and their families receive the newest and most accurate information about mesothelioma.