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Ventilator Relieves Lung Cancer Pain in Final Hours
Date:5/20/2008

At end of life, it may be better than standard oxygen therapy, study suggests

TUESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that a mechanical ventilator can ease suffering and help lung cancer patients avoid sedation at the end of life.

A large percentage of these patients didn't want to have anything to do with a ventilator, which requires them to wear an oxygen mask. But those who were willing to try the treatment needed less morphine and had fewer symptoms in their final hours.

The findings could change the way doctors treat lung cancer patients in the end stages of their disease, said study author Dr. Stefano Nava, chief of the respiratory critical care unit at Istituto Scientifico di Pavia in Italy.

According to Nava, the ventilator approach could "provide some relief to patients and a better quality of dying."

At issue are lung cancer patients who typically only have a matter of hours or days to live. They often suffer from pain and difficulty breathing.

One approach is to help the patients breathe with the use of oxygen that reaches their lungs through nasal tubes. This approach, known as standard oxygen therapy, is used by many patients with lung conditions.

Another approach relies on mechanical ventilators, which use pressure to push oxygen into the lungs. The ventilators require the use of a face mask.

According to Nava, no studies have compared the two approaches in end-stage lung cancer patients.

Nava and his colleagues in Italy and Spain randomly assigned 92 patients to either of the two treatments. Eighteen other patients declined to accept the ventilator treatment after trying out the masks; another five declined after trying the standard oxygen treatment.

The findings were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, in Toronto.

The researchers found the ventilator tre
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