One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is a regular, dry cough. Coughing can happen in the early parts of this deadly asbestos cancer and can get worse as it spreads. Pleural effusions, tumor growth, and cancer treatments can cause this cough. (asbestos.com)
Dry Cough and Mesothelioma
Dry cough is a symptom of many health problems. It is the body’s reflex to keep the throat and airways clear. An occasional cough is a normal body function, but a regular cough can be a sign of a serious health problem, such as cancer.
In the early stages of mesothelioma, symptoms such as a cough can be mistaken for a less serious health problem. Doctors could misdiagnose your cough, difficulty breathing or chest pain; it is common for mesothelioma to be mistaken for pneumonia or bronchitis.
More facts about cough and mesothelioma:
- A common symptom of cancer and treatment
- Usually gets worse as the cancer spreads
- Palliative treatments can ease the coughing and wheezing associated with mesothelioma
- Trying to sit or lay in different positions can help to ease cough
While a persistent cough is a sign of mesothelioma, it is not enough to prove you have asbestos cancer. If you have a history of being exposed to asbestos at work and have developed a cough, you need to talk to your doctor about your asbestos exposure history.
Some patients with mesothelioma have cough symptoms for a few months before they are diagnosed. Sadly, these symptoms often develop after the cancer is in a later development stage when cancer treatments are ineffective. Patients who are diagnosed in earlier stages of mesothelioma may have better treatment options.
What Causes Coughing in Mesothelioma Patients?
When a patient develops mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs (the pleura), it causes the tissue to thicken and push on the lungs. The pressure can lead to a cough, shortness of breath and pain in the chest.
Tumors also can damage nerves that connect to the pleura and this can cause a cough, too. Pleural effusion, or fluid buildup around the lungs, is known to lead to coughing for some asbestos cancer patients.
People who have pleural mesothelioma are more likely to have chest infections, including pneumonia. A dry cough is a sign of pneumonia. Repeated coughing leads to inflammation and irritation of your airways, and this makes coughing worse and more frequent.
Mesothelioma Treatment and Coughing
If you have mesothelioma and are receiving treatment, you could get dry cough and shortness of breath from radiation treatments. Also, aggressive cancer surgeries that lead to short-term risks can make your dry cough worse. Risks may include pneumonia, fluid buildup in the lungs and accumulation of pus in the pleural space.
Patients who have peritoneal mesothelioma usually do not have a cough, unless their abdominal cancer spreads into the chest.
How to Treat a Cough Related to Mesothelioma
Coughing caused by mesothelioma can be helped by medications, medical procedures, and even home remedies. The proper treatment for your mesothelioma-related cough depends on the cause of the symptom. Specific treatment options are:
- Surgery: Aggressive surgery may be performed to eliminate as much tumor as possible. This can ease your symptoms, including shortness of breath and cough.
- Palliative treatment: Draining the buildup of fluid from the pleural lining can relieve pressure on your lungs and ease coughing and wheezing.
- Cough home remedies: Some patients have experienced relief from the following at-home treatments:
- Menthol or other cough drops
- Drinking hot water with honey and lemon juice
- Drinking various herbal teas. Best options are ginger root, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, thyme leaves, and pepper leaves.
- Use a home humidifier to moisten lung tissue
- Gargle warm water mixed with salt several times per day
- Change positions: Lying or sitting in various positions can make it harder to breathe and make you cough more. Try sleeping or sitting in different positions, such as being propped up with more pillows, or sleeping on one side or the other.
- Avoid major coughing triggers: Various environmental factors can worsen your cough: smoking, cold air, aerosol sprays, and pungent fragrances. Pay close attention to what may trigger your cough and attempt to avoid these triggers. It also is recommended to avoid environments with smoke, use soaps without scent and use a solid deodorant rather than an aerosol antiperspirant.
- Medications: There are several OTC drugs and prescription medications that can ease a dry cough. Cough suppressants such as Robitussin can reduce a cough caused by mesothelioma or pneumonia. Some patients suffering from a lung infection or chest cold can cough more often because they cannot bring up phlegm. Expectorants such as guaifenesin (Mucinex) can thin mucus and make it easier to get out of the chest. This is useful for wet cough but not dry cough. Some prescription steroids and pain killers can reduce a dry cough. A nebulizer that delivers the drug by mist into the lungs can be very helpful.
- Complementary therapies: Ease the effects of asbestos cancer symptoms on the body and mind. Acupuncture, acupressure, and aromatherapy can reduce dry cough. Also, yoga and meditation help to control your breathing and can reduce a dry cough.
Cough and Emotional Effects
A persistent cough is a difficult symptom of mesothelioma, and patients can feel frustrated, anxious and even depressed because of the problem. If you have mesothelioma and cough, try talking to your doctors and nurses about how to reduce your cough and the social and emotional effects that accompany it:
- Daily tasks: Coughing regularly makes it hard to bathe, cook or do chores around the home. It can make sleeping very challenging, which leads to extreme fatigue. Constant coughing can also cause severe chest pain for mesothelioma patients.
- Social anxiety: A chronic cough may make you uncomfortable in social situations. You may feel embarrassed and coughing and not go out in public, such as restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores. Also, a fear of coughing in public can make it hard to enjoy hobbies and activities you once enjoyed. Talking on the phone and in-person can become difficult as coughing makes it hard to talk. This can isolate you from your friends and loved ones.
- Mesothelioma reminder: A regular cough can make you more aware of your disease and cause fear and anxiety. It can also make others aware of your cancer, which may upset you if you want your diagnosis to be kept private.
Talk to a Mesothelioma Attorney Today
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are dealing with a cough and other cancer symptoms, you may be entitled to mesothelioma compensation. If a company is found liable for exposing you to asbestos on the job, you can receive damages including medical costs, lost earnings, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Please contact us for a no-obligation legal consultation.