Dyspnea is common in lung cancer and may be partially attributable to increased ventilatory drive due to muscle weakness. The sympathetic component of this pathway might be mitigated by β-blockers.
A retrospective review of new patients with stage III–IV non-small lung cancer or any small cell lung cancer was undertaken to assess the impact of β-blocker use on dyspnea and fatigue. Data were abstracted for clinical characteristics, β-blocker use, and pre-treatment Edmonton Symptom Assessment System dyspnea and fatigue scores.
Of 348 patients assessed, 202 met eligibility criteria. The median age was 67, 55.4% were female, 18.8% had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 5.9% had active coronary artery disease. Over 60% of patients scored 4/10 or higher on their dyspnea and fatigue scores. While dyspnea and fatigue were moderately associated, no association was found between β-blocker use and either symptom. Recorded dosages of β-blockers were low. COPD was associated with dyspnea and fatigue, while anemia was associated with fatigue.
Dyspnea and fatigue are prevalent and increased in the presence of COPD and anemia. No association between β-blocker use and dyspnea or fatigue scores was observed. This may be attributable to inadequate dosing or to retrospective bias.