Lung cancer is the commonest cause of death from cancer worldwide, responsible for an estimated one in five (1.59 million deaths, 19.4% total deaths). Rarely curable, breathlessness is a problem in up to 90% of patients. Breathlessness can be harder to treat than pain and is a cause of emergency hospital admission.
In a trial, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), conducted with colleagues from the Universities of York, Hull and Cambridge and the NHS, patients were given either one or three sessions of breathing training. The trial found that there was clinically significant improvement in breathlessness intensity and other breathlessness measures from breathing training but no evidence that three sessions conferred greater benefit than a single session for any of the outcomes.
The researchers surmised that if patients were taught how to address their breathlessness in a single session and then allowed to see how they managed without repeat visits (with the inherent logistic challenges for those who are unwell to get to a clinic, or arrange their day to accommodate a clinician to visit) then this may increase their self-efficacy, and reduce distress related to such logistic difficulties.
Based on the findings of this research trial, Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust have now changed their treatment of breathlessness training to one session per patient for people with lung cancer.
Professor Johnson said: “More patients can now access the service for the same clinic resources. We are grateful to all the patients who made this trial possible.”