Previous research has shown that breathing exercises may improve the prognosis and health status in patients with lung cancer by enhancing pulmonary function and quality of life (QOL). However, individually published results are inconclusive. The aim of the present meta-analysis was to evaluate the clinical value of breathing exercises on post-operative pulmonary function and QOL in patients with lung cancer. A literature search of Pubmed, Embase, the Web of Science and CBM databases was conducted from their inception through to October 2012. Crude standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to assess the effect of breathing exercises. A total of eight clinical studies were ultimately included with 398 lung cancer patients. When all the eligible studies were pooled into the meta-analysis, there was a significant difference between the pre-intervention and post-intervention results of breathing exercises on post-operative pulmonary function; forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1): SMD, 3.37; 95% CI, 1.97-4.77; P<0.001; FEV1/FVC: SMD, 1.77; 95% CI, 0.15-3.39; P=0.032). Furthermore, the QOL in patients with lung cancer was significantly improved following the intervention with breathing exercises; there were significant differences between the pre-intervention and post-intervention results on the ability of self-care in daily life (SMD, -1.00; 95% CI, -1.467 to -0.52; P<0.001), social activities (SMD, -0.94; 95% CI, -1.73 to -0.15; P=0.02), symptoms of depression (SMD, -0.91; 95% CI, -1.25 to -0.57; P<0.001) and symptoms of anxiety (SMD, -0.91; 95% CI, -1.20 to -0.63; P<0.001). Results from the present meta-analysis suggest that breathing exercises may significantly improve post-operative pulmonary function and QOL in patients with lung cancer.
Keywords: breathing exercises; lung cancer; meta-analysis; pulmonary function; quality of life.