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Having a difficult time catching your breath? You may be experiencing dyspnea.
Dyspnea is a term used to describe shortness of breath. You may experience difficulty breathing due to a number of things, from an intense exercise routine to a sudden temperature change, or when traveling through a change in altitude.
But having shortness of breath can also be a sign of something more serious like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or even lung cancer.
Dyspnea is one of the most common symptoms of lung cancer.
Dyspnea occurs when your body is not taking in enough oxygen and your lungs are trying harder to draw in more air. It can feel like you are:
People with earlier-stage cancer who have a condition that affects the lungs or heart, such as a blood clot, may experience dyspnea, but it can also be caused by:
If you are feeling like it is frequently hard for you to breathe or if breathlessness is waking you up at night, it is important to remain calm and contact your doctor.
If difficulty breathing is sudden and severe (especially if it does not improve with rest) or is accompanied by chest pain, call 911.
Your doctor can help determine the cause of your breathlessness by conducting an exam and reviewing your medical history. Your doctor will want to know when and how often you experience shortness of breath, and whether you are taking part in a specific activity when it happens.
Your doctor may also recommend strategies to relieve your symptoms. These can include:
Improvements in diagnosis and treatment are helping people cope with shortness of breath, but because dyspnea can be caused by a variety of things, it is important to be evaluated by a physician to determine the exact cause and get proper treatment.
At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we provide low-dose CT lung screening for at-risk patients. This lung screening, designed to assist in early detection, can save lives of people at high risk for developing lung cancer. In the event of a suspicious finding, your scan will be reviewed by our team of lung cancer experts within our Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Clinic. This process provides multiple, expert opinions in one setting to personalize your care.
Learn more about pulmonary services and cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
To find out if you’re at risk for lung disease, take a free, five-minute LungAware assessment.
Nobody deserves cancer: Lung cancer labels
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