Fatigue Reduction of One Session of Mindful Breathing for Patients With Hematological Cancer

Results from a randomized controlled trial found that one 30-minute session of mindful breathing was effective at rapidly reducing fatigue in patients with hematological cancers. The results of the study, conducted by Diana-Leh-Ching Ng, MD, and colleagues, were published in BMC Palliative Care.


Mindful breathing is a simple, but effective technique for managing the symptom burden of patients with hematological cancers. According to the authors, “on top of all the currently available methods, 30-min mindful breathing can prove a valuable addition.”


The trial was conducted from October 2019 to May 2020, at the University Malaya Medical Centre. Patients were 18 years or older with hematological cancer, and a score of greater than four on the fatigue subscale of the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS). Outcomes assessed included fatigue severity according to the ESAS, visual analogue scale of zero to 10, and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (FACIT) Fatigue Scale Version four, at zero and 30-minutes post-session. A total of 80 participants were randomized into the test and control groups.


Scores at minute zero were similar between the groups in both ESAS-fatigue score (median, 5), and FACIT-fatigue score (test group: mean ± standard deviation [SD], 24.7 ± 10.6; control group: 24.7 ± 9.7). At minute 30, the test group had a lower ESAS-fatigue score (median, 3 versus 5), and a lower FACIT-fatigue score (mean ± SD, 17.1 ± 10.5 versus 24.8 ± 11.3) compared to the control group. ESAS-fatigue score reduction (median, – 2 versus 0, p = 0.002), and FACIT-fatigue score reduction (mean ± SD, – 6.7 versus + 0.8; p = 0.001) for the test group were both statistically significant. The calculated effect size Cohen’s d was 1.4 for between-group comparison of differences in total FACIT-fatigue score.


Authors acknowledged several limitations of the study, including its single-center design. Additionally, patients couldn’t be blinded because their participation was required and there was no active control.


According to the authors, the results of the study provide evidence that one guided session of mindful breathing is effective in reducing fatigue in hematological cancer patients and it can be easily added to existing treatments.