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Pneumonitis, Cough, Shortness of Breath

Pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs and can occur as a side effect of certain drugs used to treat kidney cancer, including the mTOR inhibitors temsirolimus (Torisel) and everolimus (Afinitor); and the immune checkpoint inhibitor Nivolumab (Opdivo) , Pembrolizumab ( Keytruda ) , Ipilimumab (Yervoy ) .

Symptoms of Pneumonitis:

  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

When to call your oncologist or oncology nurse: *

  • If you have any symptoms of pneumonitis including new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, fatigue or fever.
  • Anytime you have difficulty breathing.

*If you are receiving treatment with an immunotherapy agent (i.e. Nivolumab (OPDIVO) and are experiencing shortness of breath, new or worsening cough, contact your oncology care provider immediately)

Diagnosis of Pneumonitis:

  • Your doctor may order any of the following tests to assist in the diagnosis of pneumonitis.
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT Scan
  • Lung function tests
  • Physical exam

Things you can do to minimize pneumonitis:

  • Inform your health care team right away if you experience any symptoms of pneumonitis.
  • Inform your doctor if you have a history of asthma, or other chronic respiratory conditions before starting a new therapy
  • Stop smoking

Over-the-Counter medications (products) you can use to treat pneumonitis:

  • There are no over the counter medications to treat this side effect
  • Notify your health care team if you notice a change in your breathing and/or a dry cough that does not go away.

Medications that may be prescribed to treat pneumonitis:

  • Your doctor may prescribe steroids, and in some cases antibiotics
  • Certain cases may require interrupting your anti-cancer treatment , but may be restarted in most cases.

You should rely primarily upon your doctor for medical information.