A study looking at breathing exercises to relieve breathlessness caused by advanced cancer

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

All cancer types





This study is looking at breathing exercises to help relieve breathlessness in people with cancer.

Breathlessness is a common problem in people with cancer that has spread (advanced cancer Open a glossary item).  It can be very difficult for people to cope with this, and may affect their everyday life.

Some people with breathlessness have weak breathing muscles. Doctors think that strengthening these muscles may help. One way to do this may be by teaching people to do regular breathing exercises using a hand held device that they breathe into.

This study is looking at training people to do these breathing exercises, alongside other ways to control their breathing (controlled breathing techniques).  It aims to find out

  • If this training and exercise can help to relieve breathlessness
  • Whether it is possible to offer this training on the NHS to people with advanced cancer

Who can enter

You may be able to join this study if all of the following apply. You

  • Have cancer that has spread (advanced cancer Open a glossary item)
  • Are having breathing problems
  • Are able to do gentle exercise
  • Are at least 16 years old
  • Are a patient at the Royal Derby Hospital and your doctor has asked you to take part in this trial

You cannot join this study if any of these apply. You

  • Are having treatment with the aim of curing your cancer, you can take part if you are having treatment to control symptoms (palliative treatment Open a glossary item)
  • Have recently had surgery to your chest area
  • Have a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Open a glossary item that is either moderate or severe (the trial team will tell you more about this)

Trial design

This pilot study aims to recruit 40 people. It is randomised. The people taking part are put into 1 of 2 groups at random. If you don't want to have your treatment chosen at random, you may still be able to join the study (the study team can explain this).

People in one group have training with the study physiotherapist Open a glossary item. People in the other group do not have this training. This is the control group Open a glossary item.

If you are in the group having training, the physiotherapist will show you how to do breathing exercises while breathing into a hand held device. You breathe into this device for 30 breaths twice a day. You do these exercises for about 8 weeks.

They will also give you advice about how to manage and control your breathlessness (controlled breathing techniques). They will encourage you to set exercise goals to work towards and to record your activity in a weekly diary.

At the end of the study, the study team will ask if you would like to take part in a focus feedback group. They would like to know about your experiences in the study and what you think about the exercises and goal setting. You don't have to take part in the focus group if you do not want to.

People in the control group will have the opportunity to have the training and carry out the exercises after the study has finished.

The trial team will ask people in both groups to fill out a questionnaire before and after the study and to complete a telephone questionnaire half way through. The questionnaire will ask various questions about your breathlessness and how this affects your daily life.  This is called a quality of life study.

Hospital visits

You do not go to hospital as part of this study.  Any tests or training you have take place at the University of Derby.

At the beginning and end of the study everyone has

  • Breathing tests including lung function tests Open a glossary item
  • A walking test – you walk at your own pace for 6 minutes with rests if necessary and the trial team measure the distance you cover

People in the training group also have some more breathing tests after 4 weeks of doing the exercises.

So you go to the centre 2 or 3 times during the study over about an 8 week period.

Side effects

There are no known side effects as part of this study. People with other lung conditions have not had any problems doing these breathing exercises.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Heidi Sowter

Supported by

Lung Respiratory Physiology Fund Royal Derby Hospital
University of Derby

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 12049

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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