In patients with advanced cancer, breathlessness may be frequent and associated with factors such as respiratory disease, other concurrent symptoms, and impaired performance status, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.1

Researchers led by Magnus Ekström, MD, PhD, of Flinders University in South Australia conducted the multinational, prospective, longitudinal European Palliative Care Cancer Symptoms (EPCCS) study which included 1689 adult patients with confirmed incurable cancer enrolled in palliative care.

With a median follow-up of 62 days, 65% of patients were found to be breathless at some point with 36% of all patients reported to have moderate to severe breathlessness.

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Independent predictors for worse breathlessness were found to be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, living alone, lung metastases, anxiety, pain, depression, and lower performance status.

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Additionally, predictors of worsening breathlessness over time were low performance status and moderate to severe pain.


  1. Ekström M, Johnson MJ, Schiöler l, et al. Who experiences higher and increasing breathlessness in advanced cancer? The longitudinal EPCCS Study [published online ahead of print April 9, 2016]. Support Care in Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3207-1.