A Prospective Pilot Study Evaluating Feasibility and Preliminary Effects of Breathe Easier: A Mindfulness-based Intervention for Survivors of Lung Cancer and Their Family Members (Dyads)

Lung Cancer

Integr Cancer Ther. 2020 Jan-Dec;19:1534735420969829. doi: 10.1177/1534735420969829.


Objective: Symptom burden remains a distressing problem for survivors with non-small-cell lung cancer (stages I-IIIa). This pilot study evaluated feasibility and preliminary effects of a tailored mindfulness-based intervention, Breathe Easier, which encompasses meditation, 2 levels of mindful hatha yoga, breathing exercises, and participant interaction.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from 2 cancer programs in the US Southeast. A family member was required for participation. Sixty-two participants enrolled (20% recruitment) and 49 completed the intervention (79% retention). Participants chose level 1 yoga (basic) or level 2 (more advanced). Of the completers, survivors were 39% male and 65% Black. A community-based participatory research framework helped identify the specific needs and interests of potential participants and foreseeable barriers to implementation. A 2-month prospective, 1-group, pre-post design evaluated feasibility. Intervention dosage was measured using written protocols. Attendance and completion of daily home assignments measured adherence. Acceptability was assessed using a 10-item questionnaire, completed at three time points. Preliminary outcome data collected pre- and post-intervention tested the hypothesis that participants who received the 8-week intervention Breathe Easier would, post-intervention, demonstrate (a) less dyspnea, (b) less fatigue, (c) less stress, (d) improved sleep, (e) improved anxiety and depression, and (f) improved functional exercise capacity. Exit interviews were conducted, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed for content using descriptive statistics.

RESULTS: Quantitative and qualitative measures indicated strong feasibility. Over time, level 1 participants had statistically less dyspnea, fatigue and improved exercise capacity, as well as improved sleep, and stress scores. Level 2 participants experienced slightly increased dyspnea and fatigue but improved sleep, stress, and exercise capacity. All participants experienced anxiety and depression within normal limits pre- and post-intervention. Five major themes emerged out of exit interviews: Learning to Breathe Easier; Interacting with Others as a Personal Benefit; Stretching, Releasing Tension, and Feeling Energized; Enhancing Closeness with Committed Partners; Refocusing on Living; and Sustaining New Skills as a Decision.

CONCLUSIONS: The study offers insight into the feasibility of an 8-week in-person mindfulness-based intervention with a unique subset of understudied survivors of lung cancer and family members. Outcome data interpretation is limited by the 1-group design and sample size.