Throat Radiation After-Effects, Aspiration & Suffocating Mucous

Posted by Connie @cdee, Jan 27 10:14am

I am a 61-year-old woman that finished the last of 35 radiation treatments last March 2020. Since then, I have had pneumonia and other lung infections which was finally attributed to aspiration of solids and liquids after a barium swallow test. In that regard, I had a feeding tube inserted hoping that would be the beginning of lung healing, although this is not the case. It has been horrible, with shortness of breath, and at times rushing to the ER because I could not catch a breath. All this time I have been on one antibiotic after another, going on 6 months now! The last two months have been Doxycycline 100 mg. twice per day. Obviously the feeding tube has not stopped the feeling of having constant Bronchitis and if I stop taking the Doxycycline, within two days the substance in my lungs begins turning in consistency to that of super-glue. I had a bronchoscopy done 10/2020, which found heavy e-coli in my lungs, and a sputum test revealed “MRSA” and “Stenotrophomonas Maltophilia.” The pulmonologist and Infectious Disease doctors have both denied me any more antibiotics, and I understand their concerns, yet, they have no suggestions for me.

As I sit here, it is 3:00 a.m., and I can not sleep due to the gunk in my lungs making it hard to breath. If I quit taking the Doxycycline, I will be hospitalized within 2-days time, or at the Emergency Room again, in terms of not being able to clear the mucous and breathe. I have to go to urgent-care about once-per-month to have the antibiotics, and that doctor feels I should be on them until (if) this subsides.

I feel as if no-one cares about this condition, or, they know what it is but do not want to admit the truth that the radiation caused this. It must be aspiration causing this lung condition, as there was nothing wrong with my lungs before having radiation for cancer of the Pyriform Sinus (part of throat). The cancer is supposedly gone now, and I am thankful for that. I was a fitness nut, that exercised and ate a healthy greens diet, plus a non-smoker.

I asked the pulmonologist nurse before Thanksgiving what I am supposed to do with no antibiotics…”just die?” She laughed at that statement. Yet, they offered no alternative, or help. My ENT Doctor scopes me approximately every 3 months, and claims my throat is still extremely swollen, yet the swelling is subsiding very slowly. For 8 months I could only whisper, but now have my voice back. The ENT said he can finally see my vocal cords, but this thick mucous problem goes on. If you put your fingers on the depressed area of your throat–by the Trachea–that is the area where the mucous seems to be lodged. Again, as long as I am on antibiotics, the thick mucous can be coughed up with the help of a nebulizer of 7% saline. If I am not on antibiotics, the mucous turns into a cement-like substance, whereupon nothing will dislodge it. The hospital gave me IV antibiotics twice, which began clearing it up rather fast.

By the way, I have been to two Pulmonologists, and both are stumped. They both prescribed many different inhalers–Albuterol, Symbicort–others, and if this is any clue, these inhalers make my throat worse. In fact, the last time I used the albuterol was in desperation, and it almost closed up my throat totally. The second-opinion Pulmonologist described that reaction as “very interesting.” Currently, not taking solids or liquids by mouth, in hopes this will go away.

Sorry to write all that! This has been submitted hoping someone will instruct me as to where to go from here? Another ENT, or another Pulmonologist?
Thank-you greatly for your time.

@cdee Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect, a place to give and get support.

You had cancer and a successful treatment. Since treatment you have had serious lung issues. No long-term treatments have worked and you are looking for answers. You are looking to connect with members for information, suggestions, and support.

You will notice that I added your question to the Lung Health and the Head & Neck Cancer groups. I did this so you could connect with members like @trixie1313 @rosemarya @merpreb @fiesty76 @spudmato @sueinmn. You may wish to explore all three groups discussions and posts.

Below I have linked a discussion that may be helpful. You may wish to scroll through the posts for information and support.
– Lung Health https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/lung-conditions/
– Excessive mucus without cough https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/excessive-mucus-without-cough/

May I ask if you have considered getting a second opinion at a specialty or teaching hospital?

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@cdee I have a similar situation, not as extreme, but similar. Have you tried going on prednisone? At this time-prednisone seems to help me. Of course sleeping with wedge pillow may help a bit, exercise, acupuncture, steam inhalation with eucalyptus, avoiding dairy and other mucus forming foods. These are things that have helped me. I would seek advise from another pulmonologist. Hope you feel better soon.

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@erikas

@cdee Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect, a place to give and get support.

You had cancer and a successful treatment. Since treatment you have had serious lung issues. No long-term treatments have worked and you are looking for answers. You are looking to connect with members for information, suggestions, and support.

You will notice that I added your question to the Lung Health and the Head & Neck Cancer groups. I did this so you could connect with members like @trixie1313 @rosemarya @merpreb @fiesty76 @spudmato @sueinmn. You may wish to explore all three groups discussions and posts.

Below I have linked a discussion that may be helpful. You may wish to scroll through the posts for information and support.
– Lung Health https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/lung-conditions/
– Excessive mucus without cough https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/excessive-mucus-without-cough/

May I ask if you have considered getting a second opinion at a specialty or teaching hospital?

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Thank-you very much for forwarding my issue to the appropriate group. I did go to a second Pulmonologist at Indiana IU Health, which is the best you can get here in Indiana. Am very open to any hospital or doctor that can help! Thank-you, again.

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@fracturedd

@cdee I have a similar situation, not as extreme, but similar. Have you tried going on prednisone? At this time-prednisone seems to help me. Of course sleeping with wedge pillow may help a bit, exercise, acupuncture, steam inhalation with eucalyptus, avoiding dairy and other mucus forming foods. These are things that have helped me. I would seek advise from another pulmonologist. Hope you feel better soon.

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Hello, and thank-you for response. I was on steroids (Prednisone) several times, and I sleep elevated at least 30 degrees. As for exercise…get plenty of that, but will try the eucalyptus. And, dairy foods are one of few items that doctors encouraged me to eat, due to aspiration. Guess they slide down without as much risk. But they do create mucous, although it is not the same type mucous that forms in the bronchial tubes. Was putting eucalyptus oil on my throat area, and excited to try nebulizing it. I will look into how to do that safely. However, when the mucus changes its consistency, it is like gooey cement…only antibiotics seem to cut it. The saline that usually works, will not work if the antibiotics have run out. The mucous gets too thick.Thank-you. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Liked by fiesty76

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Oh! What a situation. I cannot use albuterol, but my allergy/asthma doc prescribes Levalbuterol instead, so maybe you can ask for a script for that. Do you drink lots of fluids to try and keep the congestion thinner? Perhaps that would help. It sure is frustrating when one has issues with meds and the physician has a hearing problem–not all patients are what the book learning said they would be like! Wishing you comfort and help with your throat issues. Baz10

Liked by fiesty76

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Hello.
You are very kind, thank-you very much. We all have some thorn to bear. I will look into the Levalbuterol. Thanks again!

Liked by fiesty76

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@cdee

Hello.
You are very kind, thank-you very much. We all have some thorn to bear. I will look into the Levalbuterol. Thanks again!

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Connie – I find when my mucus is thick, it is better to nebulize levalbuterol than to use the inhaler – it gets deeper into the lungs.

I think @fracturedd was suggesting a diffuser or vaporizer for inhaling the eucalyptus aroma. Inhaling this way is generally considered safe, but with your issues, you might want to talk to your docs.

On the other hand nebulizing eucalyptus or any other essential oil can be dangerous for a number of reasons. One is that putting oil droplets directly into the lungs can impede the ciliary and bronchial action that clears lungs. Compounds in the oil could interact with medications you are taking. It is not known don't whether the oil will be excreted from the lungs. Please consult a pulmonologist or ENT before you consider nebulizing.

One more thing to consider trying is "Breathe Easy" by Traditional Medicinals. I rely on it to keep my mucus thinned. It is available in many grocery and whole food stores and on line.

Sue

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@sueinmn

Connie – I find when my mucus is thick, it is better to nebulize levalbuterol than to use the inhaler – it gets deeper into the lungs.

I think @fracturedd was suggesting a diffuser or vaporizer for inhaling the eucalyptus aroma. Inhaling this way is generally considered safe, but with your issues, you might want to talk to your docs.

On the other hand nebulizing eucalyptus or any other essential oil can be dangerous for a number of reasons. One is that putting oil droplets directly into the lungs can impede the ciliary and bronchial action that clears lungs. Compounds in the oil could interact with medications you are taking. It is not known don't whether the oil will be excreted from the lungs. Please consult a pulmonologist or ENT before you consider nebulizing.

One more thing to consider trying is "Breathe Easy" by Traditional Medicinals. I rely on it to keep my mucus thinned. It is available in many grocery and whole food stores and on line.

Sue

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Wow! Thank-you for the useful information. Also, thanks for the warning about nebulizing oils. So excited to try the Breathe Easy…as soon as the recent, heavy snow gets cleared off! The tips are greatly appreciated. Thank-you again.

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@sueinmn

Connie – I find when my mucus is thick, it is better to nebulize levalbuterol than to use the inhaler – it gets deeper into the lungs.

I think @fracturedd was suggesting a diffuser or vaporizer for inhaling the eucalyptus aroma. Inhaling this way is generally considered safe, but with your issues, you might want to talk to your docs.

On the other hand nebulizing eucalyptus or any other essential oil can be dangerous for a number of reasons. One is that putting oil droplets directly into the lungs can impede the ciliary and bronchial action that clears lungs. Compounds in the oil could interact with medications you are taking. It is not known don't whether the oil will be excreted from the lungs. Please consult a pulmonologist or ENT before you consider nebulizing.

One more thing to consider trying is "Breathe Easy" by Traditional Medicinals. I rely on it to keep my mucus thinned. It is available in many grocery and whole food stores and on line.

Sue

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A couple drops in the bottom of a hot shower! Yes, never in a nebulizer.

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What a great idea!!! So thankful for great answers!

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Recently, and after much researching, I discovered an increasing condition called, "nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease," or NTM. Please research this, as this is the next step for me. Although after having a bronchoscopy there were many bacteria the lab tested for, this bacteria was not one of them. If this is what is causing my problem, it would explain much. According to the site for NTM, this condition is increasing by 8% per YEAR!

Liked by fracturedd, fiesty76

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@cdee

Recently, and after much researching, I discovered an increasing condition called, "nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease," or NTM. Please research this, as this is the next step for me. Although after having a bronchoscopy there were many bacteria the lab tested for, this bacteria was not one of them. If this is what is causing my problem, it would explain much. According to the site for NTM, this condition is increasing by 8% per YEAR!

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Connie – You said "after having a bronchoscopy there were many bacteria the lab tested for, this bacteria was not one of them." – Can you tell us what was tested?
Sue

Liked by fiesty76

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So sorry to hear that you’re having this trouble what state are you in if you don’t mind me asking I had a second opinion on my condition and finally found out what the problem was I am grateful for an honest ent

Liked by fiesty76

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@cdee

Recently, and after much researching, I discovered an increasing condition called, "nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease," or NTM. Please research this, as this is the next step for me. Although after having a bronchoscopy there were many bacteria the lab tested for, this bacteria was not one of them. If this is what is causing my problem, it would explain much. According to the site for NTM, this condition is increasing by 8% per YEAR!

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@cdee, I encourage you to join the MAC & Bronchiectasis group here https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/mac-bronchiectasis/

In this group, you will find many supportive and knowledgeable members who are living with nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease. Here is one discussion you may wish to start with:
– NEWCOMERS .. ONE EXPLANATION I FOUND ON MAC/MAI TO HELP YOU https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/newcomers-one-explanation-i-found-on-macmai-to-help-you/

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@colleenyoung

@cdee, I encourage you to join the MAC & Bronchiectasis group here https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/mac-bronchiectasis/

In this group, you will find many supportive and knowledgeable members who are living with nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease. Here is one discussion you may wish to start with:
– NEWCOMERS .. ONE EXPLANATION I FOUND ON MAC/MAI TO HELP YOU https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/newcomers-one-explanation-i-found-on-macmai-to-help-you/

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Thank-you, very much! Will do.

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