What can we do to calm mom's coughing due to lung cancer radiation?

Workerpriest asked...

My Mom had a single dose of radiation to a primary lung tumor 5 days ago. She has stage 3 b ca lung and possible brain metastasis. Since Friday she has been coughing worse than she ever did before the radiation. It is a strong cough, sometimes productive of yellow blood tinged sputum. I have been giving her her codeine cough syrup but it is not controlling much, even at almost highest does allowed. She coughs on talking and eating (swallowing) but does not complain of weakness or great fatigue and does not seem feverish at present. Should I be concerned about complications now?

Expert Answer

Linda Ackerman, R.N. has clinical experience in oncology, women's health, and medical nursing. She has been practicing for more than 20 years and is a licensed registered nurse in both Florida and Wisconsin. In addition, she serves as a board member of Breast Cancer Recovery and the Wisconsin Cancer Council.

Based on the description of your mom's cough and symptoms, it is difficult to establish if what you are seeing is related to your mom's cancer, the one radiation treatment and or the possibility of an upper respiratory infection occurring in addition to the radiation treatment.

Since the cough syrup is not controlling the cough much and she is having difficulty with her day-to-day activities, I would suggest contacting her physician and ask to be seen specifically for this worsening cough.

The oncologist may want to perform some additional tests to help identify the cause of this additional problem.

If a respiratory infection is not present, then your mom's cancer could be worsening. If this is the case, you and your mom may want to discuss other medications /comfort measures that could be available for her.

If your mom does have a bacterial respiratory infection, the oncologist will be able to prescribe additional medications, such as antibiotics to help alleviate some of her symptoms.

I hope you find this information helpful in assisting your mother to find some additional relief for this discomfort.