What is the connection between cancer and pneumonia?

Cancer and pneumonia are connected in several ways. Pneumonia can develop as a complication of cancer. It can also be a symptom of some types of cancer. Although lung cancer and pneumonia can occur together, pneumonia can also develop with other types of cancer.

To understand why cancer and pneumonia often develop together, it's important to know what pneumonia is. Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. It can be caused by a fungus, bacteria, or viral infection. When a person has cancer, their immune system is often weaker and they can develop pneumonia more easily.

One of the signs of lung cancer is recurrent pneumonia. When a person continues to develop breathing problems, such as pneumonia, other tests, such as a CT scan of the chest, may be ordered. Lung cancer is sometimes found this way.

A diagnosis of cancer may also be delayed if the cancer is mistaken for pneumonia. Sometimes people with pneumonia can have symptoms similar to lung cancer. Since cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and fatigue are common symptoms of both illnesses, pneumonia can be misdiagnosed at first.

Cancer and pneumonia are also linked because cancer treatment can sometimes lead to pneumonia. Cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, can sometimes cause lung damage as a side effect. When the lungs are damaged, pneumonia can develop more easily. Chemotherapy often weakens the body's defenses, so the viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause pneumonia can more easily attack the lungs.

If pneumonia occurs in a person with cancer, complications may occur more often. Respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis are two serious complications that develop more often in people who have cancer and pneumonia. Sepsis occurs in people with cancer if the infection travels into the bloodstream. This can be a life-threatening infection.

Depending on the type of pneumonia, treatment may include antibiotics, breathing treatments, intravenous (IV) fluids, and oxygen. Treatment may be more aggressive if the patient also has cancer. This is to rid the body of pneumonia quickly to prevent serious complications. Cancer and pneumonia patients are more likely to be treated in the hospital rather than as outpatients at home.

Prevention, such as getting vaccinated against pneumonia, may be recommended for people who have certain types of cancer. Other ways to reduce your chances of getting pneumonia include eating right, getting enough rest, and washing your hands often. People with cancer need to be especially diligent in staying away from other people who have pneumonia to avoid becoming infected.

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