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Lung Cancer

Use of oxycodone/oxycontin for breathing

12/08/2010

Question:

Is it common or advisable in hospice care to give oxycodone and/or oxycontin to a final stage lung cancer patient not for the relief of pain, but to help their `shortness of breath`? Wouldn`t this medication hinder their ability to breathe better?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. Narcotics are sometimes used to mimimize the discomfort of dyspnea (shortness of breath) in patients with advanced lung disease. However, the data to support this approach is minimal. It is a matter of finding a balance making the patient comfortable without decreasing their drive to breath. A careful discussion that includes the risks and benefits should occur prior to taking this approach to relieving shortness of breath.

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Response by:

Patrick  Nana-Sinkam, MD Patrick Nana-Sinkam, MD
Associate Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University