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Sleep and Cancer

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Shirley's cancer doctor referred her to a sleep clinic where a study revealed the underlying problem - sleep apnea. Shirley's cancer doctor referred her to a sleep clinic where a study revealed the underlying problem - sleep apnea.
A cancer diagnosis can keep patients awake at night. But in an ironic twist, the lack of sleep can throw a wet blanket on cancer treatment.

When Shirley Moore was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, doctors said she needed surgery to treat it. Then, they found out she wasn't strong enough for the procedure.

Shirley says, "one reason was because of the fact that we discovered that my heart was only functioning at a 35% rate."

Dr. Dave Balachandran says, "she gave some symptoms of not only having, you know, a low heart function, but also being tired and fatigued during the day."

So her cancer doctor referred her to a sleep clinic where a study revealed the underlying problem - sleep apnea.

Shirley says, "I mean I stopped breathing 26 times within an hour. My heart, my heart was under such stress."

Shirley treated the breathing problem, improved her heart function and had the life-saving surgery.

Dr. Balachandran says, "when we identify a sleep disorder, often times we can treat that sleep disorder and really make an impact on their cancer-related fatigue."

Dr. Balanchandran is a sleep expert at MD Anderson - the first cancer hospital in the country to have a sleep disorders clinic tailored for cancer patients.

Dr. Balachandran says, "patients want this. Patients with cancer, uh, studies have shown that up to 50 to 80% of them have sleep-related complaints."

Breathing problems like sleep apnea are common. So are treatment-related movement disorders like restless leg syndrome.

Dr. Balachandran says, "when we tell them that it's a side effect of their chemotherapy and there are treatments for this that actually improve them, they're amazed. And they'll come back to you after the therapy and say, I didn't know I could feel this way."

Beating cancer with sleep - it's one more way to get patients on a well-rested road to recovery.

The sleep clinic will also be used to study cancer-related sleep problems.

Researchers hope to understand how sleep impacts cancer and its outcomes and how cancer treatments affect patients' sleep.
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