Long-term lung cancer survivors suffer from dyspnea, according to a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (2010 Aug;5(8):1221-6).

For the study, Marc Feinstein, MD, and fellow researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School surveyed 342 survivors of early-stage lung cancer, who had their tumors removed within 1 to 6 years of the survey.

Researchers found that among the study participants, dyspnea occurred in 60% of those surveyed—nearly three times the number of patients who presented with dyspnea before their surgery. In addition, factors associated with long-term dyspnea in cancer survivors included presence of dyspnea before lung cancer surgery, reduced diffusion capacity, and lack of physical activity. The team also reported that depression symptoms, which were not very prevalent in the study sample, were strongly associated with dyspnea.

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“The identification of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with dyspnea is perhaps the most significant finding,” noted Dr. Feinstein, 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 result in improved breathlessness.”