Mask, phlegmy throat and panic attacks


I am starting radiation on Monday. When being fitted for the mask I had a claustraphobic panic attack. The nurses said this was comon and prescribed Lorazapam. Having followed manny conversations here over the last several weeks I noticed a common side effect of treatment is phlegmy throat. I am really concerned that after a few weeks of radiation I'll choke on the phlegm while lying on the table. Lorazapam or not, choking or not being able to breath is MY biggest fear. Did any of you have this issue during radiation?

Thank you for any advice you have, I'm very impressed with the kindness of those who have gone before me!


  • Sprint Car Dude
    Sprint Car Dude Member Posts: 181

    Yes, Yes and Yes.  I asked them to let me try to reach the latches that held the mask down to the table. Once I figured out that in an emergency I could unstrap myself I was fine. There where only 1-2 treatments where I became gaggy. You just power through them so you can get done and go home. After the first few you will be a pro.   Good Luck. 

  • CivilMatt
    CivilMatt Member Posts: 4,698 Member
    Nobody dies and for some H&N members this is a non-issue, not me


    First off, I have not read about any H&N member being lost due to choking on the rad table with their mask on (what a wild thought).  Yes, choking is a problem and your throat does not respect a good radiation treatment and you may have phlegm, mucus, swelling, sores, a bad breakfast any number of things to disrupt your daily zap.  Please don’t you worry, the folks at the radiation lab have your number and will step in at the first sign of phlegm distress to save you and see that you get every bit of cancer killing photons your doctor has ordered.

    I took one Lorazepam every morning 30 minutes before show time.  I experienced my first anxiety (panic) attack, when going through the PET scan when the doctors wanted to see ALL the active and possible places where cancer had set up camp.  Cancer is both dumb and smart.  Dumb because the sweet concoction they send in during the PET scan draws them out and POW the cancer is in our sights.  Smart because I don’t want my cancer to think I am calling it a bad name and come back and devastate me.  Back to rads, one pill, a good shot of magic mouth wash in the parking lot (now 10 minutes to rads), a quick an happy pee (wash my hands), a rinse, gargle and good swallow of water, double check the oldies music for the day, I like to rub both of my upper arms and my face and then settle back into the radiation zone on the table, where all the fun begins.  I never liked mask time, but came to appreciate what was happening with the machinery and my poor body (most human bodies do not like rads).  BUT these are good rads so we are told, so we accept one more fact about cancer  treatment and there we are.

    I once, and only once had to let go of the handles (my treatment radiation table had you hold a handle in each hand), throw my hands in the air and ask for a do over. I simply was not ready, I had a tickle in my throat or something else very  important.   I was de-masked by my beautiful lab technician and returned to the sink where I drank water, gargled and spit and then redid all my arm and face rub and "Voilà!" ("vwah-LAH") my treatment went off without any further delays.

    Believe me, you will develop your own personalized, get ready for your rads, or mask time or zap time or whatever you wish to call it and you will get through and probably will not have to throw your hands up and ask for a do over (ever).


  • OKCnative
    OKCnative Member Posts: 326 Member
    This was a fear for me.

    This was a fear for me. Fortunately, I'm not claustrophobic, so radiation was 'nap time' for me. That said, the last 10 treatments my mucous was terrible and swallowing it was not an option and I was literally spitting into a red Solo cup every 45 seconds.


    The first thing the tech did was remind me they can see and hear me, so I can call out. Second, they said if I can't talk, simply raise my left hand and they'll stop and run right in and release the mask.

    The other thing they had me do was to literally gargle and clean my mouth right there in the radiation suite right before treatment. I'd gargle and then I'd use a disposable mouth swab dipped in mouth wash to clean all the hard to reach places. This usually kept my mouth free of mucous for the 15 minutes needed for radiation.

    I never did have to have a treatment stopped.

  • Dean54
    Dean54 Member Posts: 157 Member
    Non-issue for me

    I have had a lot of mucous and still do but mine is basically when I first get up and never bothered me much during the radiation sessions. Guess I was one of the lucky ones.