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Impact of dyspnea on advanced cancer patients referred to a palliative radiotherapy clinic

Journal title
Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer
Publication year
Rowbottom, L.; Chan, S.; Zhang, L.; McDonald, R.; Barnes, E.; Tsao, M.; Zaki, P.; Chow, E.

PURPOSE: Dyspnea is a debilitating symptom commonly experienced by advanced cancer patients that can lead to negative effects on function and quality of life (QOL). The present study aims to determine the relationship between dyspnea and other Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) symptoms in palliative cancer patients referred to a radiotherapy clinic. METHODS: The presence and severity of dyspnea was measured using the ESAS. All patients that visited a palliative radiotherapy clinic between 1999 to 2002 and 2006 to 2009 and completed the ESAS were included. ESAS scores and other demographic and clinical information were extracted from a prospectively collected database. Statistical tests including chi-squared tests, Spearman correlations, and multivariate analysis were conducted to explore the relationship between dyspnea, other ESAS items, and other demographic factors. Kaplan-Meier overall survival curves were generated based on dyspnea severity. RESULTS: One thousand three hundred forty-four patients were included in the dyspnea analysis; reported moderate or severe dyspnea. Dyspnea severity was significantly associated with eight other ESAS interference severities (p < 0.001). Upon multivariate analysis, greater severity of dyspnea was significantly related to higher ESAS scores for tiredness, nausea, depression, anxious, drowsiness, and poor appetite (p < 0.05). The actuarial median survival time was 6.57 months (95% CI 5.91-7.29 months). There were highly significant differences in overall survival between those with none, mild, and moderate dyspnea (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Cancer patients often experience dyspnea along with a multitude of other symptoms. Moderate and severe dyspnea should be assessed and optimally managed to reduce functional and QOL debilitations. As presence of increased dyspnea severity is associated with worse overall survival, interventions should occur at the end of life to reduce symptom burden in palliative patients.

Research abstracts