Cancer: Heavy Breathing and Dyspnea
As we found before, the respiratory rate for the normal breathing pattern for adults is only 12 breaths/min at rest, while Dr. Buteyko's norm is only 8 breaths per minute (see Parameters of Normal Breathing or Buteyko Table of Health Zones). What about respiratory rates in people with cancer?
We can see that cancer patients breathe much more than both norms.
Furthermore, respiratory rate (breathing frequency) of cancer patients, as
many studies have found, is an independent
predictor of their mortality (Chiang et al, 2009; Groeger et al, 1998; de Miguel
Sanchez et al, 2006). Those cancer sufferers, who breathe faster or more
frequently, have higher mortality rates and poorer prognosis. This link
(between slow spontaneous breathing and higher chances of survival) relates
to all cancer patients, those with and without dyspnea.
Conclusion. Cancer patients: the faster they breathe, the sooner they
In 2008, the Journal of Applied Physiology published a study (Travers
et al, 2008) from the
Department of Medicine, Queen's University (Kingston, Canada). It was
revealed that forty patients with cancer breathed around 12 liters of air per minute at
rest, instead of 6 l/min (the medical norm).
The average breathing frequency of these cancer patients was 20 breaths per minute (the norm
is only 12 breaths per min at rest). Tidal volume of these cancer patients (600
ml of air per one breath) was also more than the norm (which is 500 ml). Hence,
these cancer patients had both, fast and deep breathing, in comparison with the
We also learned that normal breathing is invisible and inaudible since it is very slow in frequency and tiny in tidal volume. What about visual breathing parameters of cancer patients at rest? In other words, what do the doctors see? Heavy breathing and nearly gasping for air.
After this overwhelming testimony of medical clinical doctors, it is
more than clear that terminal cancer patients have
heavy breathing patterns. (As we
are going to learn later, that causes severe cell hypoxia that causes
devastating effects on the immune system due to free radicals and oxidative
But normal breathing, as we discussed, (see Homepage
links) is invisible, inaudible, and imperceptible. Moreover, according to
physiological laws, normal breathing provides humans with superior tissue
oxygenation. Hence, healthy people do not feel their breath at all. These cancer
patients breathe at least 3-4 times more than the norm in order to be
uncomfortably aware about their breathing.
What is the typical breathing frequency in cancer patients with dyspnea? US
medical doctors from the Massey Cancer Center (Virginia Commonwealth University
in Richmond, Virginia, USA) tested 35 cancer patients (of the 35 patients, 34 were
using oxygen) and found that their average breathing
rate was 28.4 breaths/minute (Coyne et al, 2002). A 1993 study done by Italian
and Canadian doctors revealed the respiratory rate of around 23 breathes per minute (Bruera
et al, 1993) in a group of terminal cancer patients
with dyspnea. A Swiss study conducted in the Division of Palliative Care,
University Hospital, Lausanne found about 26 breaths per minute in elderly patients
with advanced cancer (Mazzocato et al, 1999).
In two recent German studies (Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care
Medicine, Bonn), average breathing rates in 2 groups of cancer patients were
stunning 42 and 39 breaths per minute (Clemens et al, 2007; Clemens et al,
2008). It is indeed physiologically shocking numbers since the normal
respiratory frequency is only 12 breaths per one minute. (Old medical textbooks
suggest 8-10 breaths per minute as normal.)
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J Appl Physiol 2008 Jan; 104(1): p.57-66.
Chiang JK, Lai NS, Wang MH, Chen SC, Kao YH, A proposed prognostic 7-day
survival formula for patients with terminal cancer, BMC Public Health. 2009 Sep
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