Stage IV lung cancer and nightly cough - does anyone know why?

I was wondering if anyone might know why my wife would be frequently having a cough at night. Sometimes she does not cough and the cough has been getting less bad. It may be related to the Tarceva because it usually happens after she takes a Tarceva.
Sometime the cough lasts on and off for half the night and sometimes it passes quickly.

Perhaps it is not related to the Tarceva since she was coughing more severely last fall before she started Tarceva and was on chemo IV treatments.

When she coughs she coughs up clear white flem. This must be related to the cancer. But our oncologist has not provided much info about why she would be coughing.

My wife is scheduled for a Pet/Scan on May 6 and we will meet with the Dr on May 9 to find out the results. She has not had a Pet/Scan since late December. She has been taking Tarceva since Jan 8. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2007. Her first line of chemo of Gemzar, Taxol and carboplatin failed since the cancer spread to her backbone during chemo.

For the last two months she started to feel better and not tired all of the time. But for the last two weeks she has become tired again. For a few weeks in early March to mid April she started to have a lot of energy.

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Hi Eric,

So sorry to hear about your wife. I too have stage 4 lung cancer but no mets. I take tarceva 150 and also experience the cough off and on like your wife, sometimes coughing up clear flem. My onc says this is normal. I found that proping up a little higher at night using 2 pillows helps a little. My primary care doctor also prescribed a med called cofex-dm 1000/55 that helps keep the lungs clearer and has reduced my coughing tremendously. Now most nights I sleep all night. I also take zyrtec twice a day and it helps to dry up some of it.

As for fatigue, mine comes and goes. It seems like the tarceva builds up in my system sometimes and makes me more tired, especially if I take it at a different time other than my normal schedule. Once it levels out again, I'm back to normal. I just lie down and rest for an hour or so until it passes.

I hope this helps and I hope your wife's scans show great success. That's what we all wait and hope for. Please keep us posted on how she is doing.

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Yes, prop her up at night and you might want to ask her Dr. for a good cough medicine that would suppress her cough so that she (and you) can get some rest. Is she taking Dexamethasone (an oral steroid)? Might help with inflammation which could be causing her cough.
Wishing your family good health,

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eric- my husband is on day 19 of 150mg of tarceva and is experiencing the same cough. he is also on avastin so we didn't know which one was causing it. the double pillows do help at night. also, for some reason, a drink of COLD water seems to stop it for awhile. it is hard to sleep with the coughing. i sleep with sound- blocking earphones at times. the fatigue does come and go. i wish you and your wife strength. arlene

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Don't know if this helps but before I had my surgery, I had a 2.5 cm tumor in my upper left lobe. I had constant chest pain in my left upper chest, right where the tumor was. I had an extremely persistent cough for many months before I had the tumor out. The doctors all said the pain and cough couldn't have been from the tumor but once I had the tumor out, no more cough and no more chest pain (of that sort anyway....).

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I forgot to say - the cough was always worse when I lied down.

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Sorry for being so blunt BUT I suggest a NEW Oncologist ASAP. I can not believe you allowed a 5 month break between SCANs and you are worried about a cough. Coughing as a rule is a sympton of lung cancer.... It is important you learn everything you can about this disease and attack it head on....Sorry not to be more compassionate but I want people to win this battle something that can not happen when so many rely on people telling them what to do and not taking the time to learn... We as survivors or caregivers should be sharing thoughts and procedures with the docs, and we should be making the final decisions not doing everything we are told to do and walking blind.......Not knowing with lung cancer IS the kiss of Death..

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I agree with the suggestion that you find a new oncologist. You have two issues: the cause and managing the problem. Coughs are symptoms of something, and should be investigated -- at least determine if the cause is cancer, pneumonia, allergies, etc. Next, coughs are fatiguing, perhaps unnecessarily so. Manage them, if not eliminate them. There are good remedies, including hydrocodeine-based syrups, with a variety of additions that manage the endless cough and also can help dry up excess fluid in the lungs. I have also used high-cacao chocolate -- not the sugar candy sort, but at least 83- to 99% cacao chocolate with no sugar or as low as you can find it. This works really quite well to quell the irritated cough even from colds and pneumonia and lung cancer. Best wishes, SharonS

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