Sounds pretty similar, right? What’s the difference? you might even ask. It’s a world of difference in terms of cause and treatment, at least that’s what I’ve learned during the course of this afternoon. With some help from my friends at Smart Patients of course.
Afinitor – the kidney cancer drug we’ve come to put all our hopes into – makes the patient very sensitive to infections, and developing a bacterial pneumonia is not uncommon. If you get a bacterial pneumonia it needs to be treated with antibiotics. If you have metastases in the lungs making you cough and be short of breath to start with, it can be quite difficult to spot when a pneumonia sets in though… a fever is therefore an important warning sign.
Pneumonitis is a general term that refers to inflammation of lung tissue. Although pneumonia is technically a type of pneumonitis because the infection causes inflammation, most doctors are referring to other causes of lung inflammation when they use the term “pneumonitis.” Pneumonitis that is not caused by bacteria cannot be treated with antibiotics. Of course, pneumonitis is a common side effect of Afinitor too, and if you get a “non-infectious pneumonitis” you’re rather prescribed steroids to control the inflammation.
So, right now I’m sitting here hoping (with all my fingers crossed) that the physicians at the hospital where my father is currently admitted have communicated with the oncologists and really checked properly that my father has pneumonia and not pneumonitis since they’ve prescribed antibiotics. If I had known about this difference when we were at the hospital earlier today I would have asked. They did not say. If they had, I wouldn’t be worrying right now.
PS. Imagine if we could just log into his electronic health record (as I can do with my own in Uppsala) and read lab results and notes – then perhaps all my questions would be answered. Perhaps I would even be able to see traces of ongoing communication between the oncology department and the general ward.
Or the physician might just have explained the reasoning behind the treatment choices to us…
[post 28 in the #blogg100 challenge]