Cancer and OSA
The Relationship between Cancer and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
The Big C…unfortunately in this day and age we all know what this euphemism means and we all know someone who has been touched by cancer, which could very well even be you. Unfortunately, the side effects of cancer and its treatment do not stop with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Another aspect that can adversely affect your health and life is sleep apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with OSA have disrupted breathing at night when they sleep, which is caused by an obstruction in their airway.
It is currently estimated that OSA impacts the lives of cancer patients twice as much as the general population and insomnia, another sleep disorder, is seen 50 percent as often in people suffering from cancer. In fact, if you pool all types of sleep disorders together, the statistic is somewhere between 30 to 88 percent of cancer patients are affected.
Some of the symptoms that cancer patients experience might sound very familiar: restlessness, poor concentration and memory, daytime sleepiness to name a few. All of these issues can adversely affect a person’s ability to function during the day in addition to the side effects of his or her cancer treatment.
Obviously the psychological effects and stress of cancer treatment play a pivotal role in lost sleep. Nevertheless, the negative impact of sleep for cancer patients has been shown to not end after treatment has been completed. In fact, 10 years post-treatment, breast cancer patients still have disturbances in their sleep.
Does Cancer Cause Sleep Apnea or Vice Versa?
In 2012, research results were presented at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society that illuminated the connection between cancer and OSA. Conducted at the University of Wisconsin over the course of 22 years, research confirmed that people with OSA have a higher and increased risk in developing or dying from cancer than individuals who do not have sleep apnea. The study was designed to take into account other factors that might influence risk for cancer deaths such as age, sex, body mass and smoking so that the results were not skewed. The results of this study showed that people with mild sleep apnea had a 10 percent increased risk of dying from cancer, moderate sleep apnea had double the risk and severe sleep apnea patients were five times more likely to die from cancer.
The other study presented at the conference was conducted by researchers affiliated with the Spanish Sleep Network. In almost 5,000 confirmed patients with sleep apnea in the study, the group analyzed the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and percentage of nighttime spent with oxygen saturation less than 90 percent. If 14 percent of their patients, sleep time was spent with a less than 90 percent oxygen saturation level, and those patients had double the risk of dying from cancer as opposed to individuals without sleep apnea. In addition, the researchers discovered that the connection was higher in men and patients under 65 years old. During the 7 year span of the study, 5.7 percent of sleep apnea patients developed some type of cancer.
Through animal studies, other researchers have unveiled the fact that sleep apnea helps to trigger the development of tumors with the theory that this occurrence is prompted by low oxygen levels.
So there is a connection with sleep apnea increasing a person’s risk for cancer, but is the reverse also true? Studies have also confirmed that sleep apnea can develop as a result of some types of cancer treatment. Published in CHEST, a group at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center discovered that in patients with head and neck cancer 80 percent developed sleep apnea as a result of surgery or radiation.
If you are wondering whether or not your cancer might be affecting your sleep or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation when it’s convenient for you.