Radiation therapy sometimes causes interstitial pulmonary fibrosis in patients, according to Mayo Clinic. The damage takes months or years to show up after the therapy. Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring of the lungs, which thickens the tissue, making it more difficult for oxygen to pass into the bloodstream.
Pulmonary fibrosis symptoms include shortness of breath, lowered tolerance to exercise, and coughing, according to WebMD. The condition is irreversible and becomes worse over time, depending on the cause of the damage.
Progressive shortness of breath with exercise suggests pulmonary fibrosis. Some patients have a crackling in the lungs that their doctors can detect with a stethoscope. A high-resolution CAT scan has a better chance of revealing the abnormality than an ordinary X-ray. Confirmation of the condition often requires open chest surgery where the surgeon removes a biopsy of the lung for analysis by a pathologist, according to WebMD.
As of 2015, treatment options for pulmonary fibrosis are limited, according to Mayo Clinic. Medications do not prove an overall effectiveness. Oxygen therapy does not reverse the condition but makes breathing easier. Pulmonary rehabilitation provides exercise and coping skills for living with the disease. Lung transplants are often the last resort for young patients with the disease.