Interventions for alleviating cancer-related dyspnea: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Irit Ben-Aharon*, Anat Gafter-Gvili, Leonard Leibovici, Salomon M. Stemmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background. Dyspnea is commonly encountered by many cancer patients in the terminal stage of their disease and it severely hampers their quality of life. We aimed to evaluate the role of interventions to alleviate dyspnea. Methods. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials assessing all interventions for dyspnea palliation in cancer patients, and searched the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, conference proceedings, and references. Results. Our search yielded 18 trials. Eight studies evaluated opioids in any route of administration, seven studies evaluated the use of oxygen, two studies assessed the role of benzodiazepines and two studies evaluated the role of furosemide in alleviating cancer-related dyspnea. Weighted mean difference (WMD) was calculated for continuous variables that were reported on the same scale. For continuous data reported in different scales, standardized mean difference (SMD) was calculated. Meta-analysis of three trials yielded a positive effect for opioid administration, WMD -1.31[95% CI (-2.49)(- 0.13)]. Meta-analysis of the six studies showed lack of benefit to oxygen to improve dyspnea, SMD -0.3[95% CI -1.060.47]. The role of benzodiazepines remains unclear, furosemide was not beneficial. Conclusions. Our systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrate a beneficial effect to opioids in alleviating cancer-related dyspnea, and no advantage for the use of oxygen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)996-1008
Number of pages13
JournalActa Oncologica
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2012


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