Acute lung toxicity

Acute pulmonary toxicity. It is a side effect of some cancer treatments. This damage may include inflammation , which reduces the amount of oxygen it can absorb, and / or scarring, which reduces the amount of air it can breathe. These two circumstances produce annoying symptoms, such as shortness of breath and tiredness. Treatment of lung damage is primarily aimed at relieving symptoms.


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  • 1 Lung toxicity
  • 2 Cause of lung toxicity
  • 3 Symptoms
  • 4 Treatment
  • 5 Other Alternatives
  • 6 Sources

Pulmonary toxicity

Damage to the lungs is called lung toxicity. Pulmonary toxicity can be short-term or permanent. Damage to the lungs that resolves (returns to normal after a while or after the cause has been removed) is called acute lung toxicity. Damage that is lasting or permanent is called chronic or delayed lung toxicity. Lung damage often presents as inflammation, also called pneumonitis. This inflammation usually affects the cells that line the alveoli, which are small sacs in the lungs that are responsible for exchanging oxygen in the air with carbon dioxide in the blood. The inflammation of these sensitive structures makes gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide) less efficient, reducing the amount of oxygen that is absorbed from the air and distributed throughout the body. Another type of damage to the lungs is fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis consists of the development of afibrous or rigid scar tissue in the lungs . Lung tissue is usually very elastic and expands as you breathe to give more room for air. Scarring reduces the elasticity of the lungs and reduces the amount of air it can inspire. It can occur several months after a pneumonitis has healed or it can occur without any inflammation. Fibrosis can be progressive, which means it gets worse over time and can become a long-term complication.

Cause of lung toxicity

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause lung toxicity. One of the ways in which radiotherapy and chemotherapydamage cells is by forming free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules produced during many normal cellular processes that involve oxygen, such as burning fuel-like molecules for energy. They are also formed by exposure to elements in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, and chemotherapy drugs. Free radical damage due to radiation therapy and chemotherapy is worse in the lungs, due to the high concentration of oxygen. Any chemotherapy drug can harm the lungs. Radiation to the chest cavity frequently produces lung toxicity. Cancers that can be treated with radiation to the chest cavity include breast cancer, lung cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma.. Symptoms may not occur until 2–3 months after radiation treatment. Chemotherapy drugs that have been reported to cause lung damage are:

  • Arsenic trioxide (Trisenox®)
  • Bleomycin (Blenoxane®)
  • Idarubicin (Idamycin®)


Symptoms you may experience if you have damage to your lungs include:

  • Shortness of breath when exercising
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Short of breath
  • Discomfort or worsening of symptoms when lying down


Although there is no specific treatment to reverse damage to the lungs, your doctor may prescribe medications or treatments to help control symptoms of lung toxicity. Corticosteroids : Steroids work by reducing inflammation and relieving cough and some of the pain associated with lung toxicity. Oxygen therapy: Your doctor may prescribe oxygen supplements, depending on the intensity of the symptoms as well as your activity level. Oxygen is usually generated by a machine and is given through a tube that you wear around your neck or face. A small, portable container can be used that you carry or move with a cart. Some patients may need oxygen only at night, while sleeping. Patients who have received bleomycin (Blenoxane®) are at increased risk of developing lung damage when they are receiving high concentrations of oxygen, as in general anesthesia. Narcotics: These powerful pain medications also calm the respiratory center of your brain, alleviating shortness of breath. An example of a narcotic is morphine. Pulmonary rehabilitation : Some medical centers or hospitals offer a multidisciplinary approach to treating your lung damage. These programs may include prescriptions, education, emotional support, exercise, breathing retraining, and nutritional tips to help you gain control of your breathing and restore as much function as possible.

Other Alternatives

There are things you can do each day to help control symptoms of lung toxicity: Try relaxation techniques to control your breathing, such as medication, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Promote oxygenation (air circulation) through your lungs, especially the bottom, to prevent infection and pneumonia. This can be done with breathing exercises or physical activity. Use an incentive spirometer, which is a device that makes you breathe slowly and deeply, to maintain oxygenation. Find a type of exercise that you can tolerate and do it daily. Avoid smoking and smoky environments. Consumption of snuff or smokefrom other people they can further damage your lungs. Reduce anxiety and control stress.


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