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

Cancer type:

All cancer types





This study looked at breathing exercises to help relieve shortness of breath (breathlessness) in people with cancer.

More about this trial

Breathlessness is a common problem in people with cancer that has spread (advanced cancer).  It can be very difficult for people to cope with, 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 looked at training people to do these breathing exercises, alongside other ways to control their breathing (controlled breathing techniques).  

The main aim of this study was to find out if training and exercise can help to relieve breathlessness.

Summary of results

This study recruited 3 people with breathlessness caused by cancer that had spread (advanced cancer). The research team had hoped more people would take part, but they found it difficult to recruit. 

Everyone taking part had a small hand held device to breathe into, called a POWERbreathe. They used this for 30 breaths, twice a day for 8 weeks. The aim of the POWERbreathe is to strengthen the muscles used for breathing.

The research team did a number of assessments to measure the level of breathlessness and quality of life of people taking part. They did these when people joined the study, and again at 4 weeks and 8 weeks. 

The assessments included:

  • measuring how much air people could breathe in and out in one go, and how fast (spirometry)
  • a walking test to see how far they could walk in 6 minutes
  • quality of life questionnaires
  • focus groups to discuss what they thought about the study

The results showed that:

  • some of the spirometry tests improved over 8 weeks
  • there wasn’t much of an increase in how far people could walk 
  • people taking part felt they were less breathless and able to do more
  • they felt the POWERbreathe device was helpful and easy to use

It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions with results from 3 people. But the research team concluded that the POWERbreathe device did help people with breathlessness caused by advanced cancer. They hope to do a larger trial to look at it in more detail.

We have based this summary on information from the research team.  As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) or published in a medical journal yet. The figures we quote above were provided by the research team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

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

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


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

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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