Lung cancer survivors experience long-term effects of breathlessness

August 2, 2010

With the growing number of long-term lung cancer survivors, research is needed to identify and address cancer survivorship issues. One of the most common and debilitating symptoms among lung cancer patients is dyspnea, or shortness of breath. As most studies of dyspnea have reviewed patients with active lung cancer or immediately after treatment, the prevalence of dyspnea over the long-term once treatment has been completed is not well characterized.

In a study featured in the August edition of the , Marc B. Feinstein, MD describes the prevalence and severity of in long-term lung cancer survivors and provides specific factors associated with the condition that may help clinicians target post-treatment rehabilitation strategies. Dr. Feinstein and fellow researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School surveyed 342 early-stage lung cancer survivors, who had their tumor removed within one to six years of the survey. Within this population of cancer survivors, dypsnea was found in 205 individuals (60 percent), nearly three-fold the number of patients who presented with dyspnea before their surgery (21 percent).

Additional findings showed that factors associated with long-term dyspnea in cancer survivors included presence of dyspnea before lung cancer surgery, reduced diffusion capacity (lung's ability to transfer oxygen into the blood) and lack of physical activity. also were assessed, but were not very prevalent in the study sample (occurring among 10 percent of lung cancer survivors), but were nonetheless strongly associated with dyspnea.

"The identification of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with dyspnea is perhaps the most significant finding," affirms Marc Feinstein, MD, assistant attending physician in the Pulmonary Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "This implies that strategies which improve physical activity or relieve depressive symptoms may results in improved breathlessness."

Researchers concluded that future research is needed to test whether screening and intervening for depression and physical inactivity among lung cancer survivors improves dyspnea is long-term lung cancer survivors.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study prompts new ideas on cancers' origins

December 16, 2017
Rapidly dividing, yet aberrant stem cells are a major source of cancer. But a new study suggests that mature cells also play a key role in initiating cancer—a finding that could upend the way scientists think about the ...

What does hair loss have to teach us about cancer metastasis?

December 15, 2017
Understanding how cancer cells are able to metastasize—migrate from the primary tumor to distant sites in the body—and developing therapies to inhibit this process are the focus of many laboratories around the country. ...

Cancer immunotherapy may work better in patients with specific genes

December 15, 2017
Cancer cells arise when DNA is mutated, and these cells should be recognized as "foreign" by the immune system. However, cancer cells have found ways to evade detection by the immune system.

Scientists pinpoint gene to blame for poorer survival rate in early-onset breast cancer patients

December 15, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found that inherited variation in a particular gene may be to blame for the lower survival rate of patients diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer.

Scientists unlock structure of mTOR, a key cancer cell signaling protein

December 14, 2017
Researchers in the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the structure of an important signaling molecule in cancer cells. They used a new technology called cryo-EM to visualize the structure in three dimensions. The detailed ...

'Bet hedging' explains the efficacy of many combination cancer therapies

December 14, 2017
The efficacy of many FDA-approved cancer drug combinations is not due to synergistic interactions between drugs, but rather to a form of "bet hedging," according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.