GRACE :: Treatments & Symptom Management

air hunger

Catching Your Breath


Shortness of breath, air hunger, breathlessness, or the medical term dyspnea—all terms trying to capture one of the most unsettling feelings that a person can have.  That feeling that you are under water and need a snorkel.  The sensation of tightness in the chest and anxiety all wrapped up together.  That feeling of being “too aware” of your own breathing.  Dyspnea is the medical term for this symptom, and for simplicity’s sake, I will use that word to encompass all the different terms.  For patients with cancer, this symptom occurs commonly but is difficult to treat and has gotten far too little attention than cancer-related pain.  It has been estimated to occur in 80% of patients who have an advanced cancer and in up to 20% of all cancer patients regardless of the stage of their disease. 

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