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Meditative breathing alleviates dyspnoea in advanced lung cancer patients

Jairia Dela Cruz
03 Dec 2018

In patients with advanced lung cancer, mindfulness breathing exercise helps minimize dyspnoea, according to a study presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia 2018 Congress.

The parallel-group, nonblinded randomized controlled trial included 34 patients (mean age 64.0 years; 50 percent male) with advanced lung cancer admitted to the respiratory unit and palliative unit of University Malaya Medical Center in Malaysia. These patients were equally assigned to mindfulness breathing exercise and to placebo (best medical care alone).

Results revealed that significantly more patients in the mindfulness vs placebo group achieved reductions in the modified Borg dyspnea scale (MBDS) at 5 minutes (58.8 percent vs 17.6 percent; odds ratio [OR], 9.33; 95 percent CI, 1.80–48.38; p=0.005). There was no significant difference observed at the 20-minute time point (58.5 percent vs 41.1 percent, respectively; OR, 2.86; 0.67–12.11; p=0.149). [ESMO Asia 2018, abstract 363P]

Mindfulness breathing exercise also delivered more favourable results in terms of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry both at 5 minutes (29.4 percent vs 11.8 percent; OR, 3.75; 0.61–23.35; p=0.209) and 20 minutes (23.5 percent vs 0 percent).

Finally, positive improvements in respiratory rate occurred similarly in the mindfulness breathing and placebo groups at 5 minutes (52.9 percent with mindfulness breathing vs 58.8 percent with placebo; OR, 1.05; 0.26–4.32; p=0.946) and 20 minutes (52.9 percent vs 41.1 percent; OR, 2.14; 0.52–8.81; p=0.288).

The present data suggest that meditative breathing has measurable effect on dyspnoea and may play a role in the management of advanced lung cancer patients.

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) foster greater awareness of present moment experience, which may have manifold benefits, ranging from enhancing the quality and vividness of daily life experience to helping better manage diverse clinical and nonclinical conditions. [Annu Rev Clin Psychol 2017;68:491-516]

Mechanisms said to drive promising initial effects of MBIs on outcomes involve both mindfulness-specific (eg, acceptance and emotion regulation mechanisms) and nonmindfulness-specific (eg, positive treatment expectancies) processes. [Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014;44:1-12]

According to experts, additional research on the mechanisms of MBIs and specification of how and for whom such interventions work will further basic and clinical efforts in this area.

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