Acute and Chronic Respiratory Failure in Cancer Patients

  • Steven P. Sears
  • Gordon Carr
  • Christian BimeEmail author
Reference work entry


In 2016, there was an estimated 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Remarkable advances have been made in cancer therapy and the 5-year survival has increased for most patients affected by malignancy. There are growing numbers of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) and up to 20% of all patients admitted to an ICU carry a diagnosis of malignancy. Respiratory failure remains the most common reason for ICU admission and remains the leading causes of death in oncology patients. There are many causes of respiratory failure in this population. Pneumonia is the most common cause of respiratory failure, yet there are many causes of respiratory insufficiency unique to the cancer patient. These causes are often a result of immunosuppression, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HCT). Treatment is focused on supportive care and specific therapy for the underlying cause of respiratory failure. Noninvasive modalities of respiratory support are available; however, careful patient selection is paramount as indiscriminate use of noninvasive positive pressure ventilation is associated with a higher mortality if mechanical ventilation is later required. Historically, respiratory failure in the cancer patient had a grim prognosis. Outcomes have improved over the past 20 years. Survivors are often left with significant disability.


Respiratory failure Noninvasive ventilation Mechanical ventilation Intensive Care Unit Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage Organizing pneumonia Pulmonary embolism High resolution computed tomography Bronchoscopy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Banner-University Medical Center TucsonTucsonUSA
  3. 3.University of Arizona School of Medicine and Banner-University Medical Center – TucsonTucsonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Yenny Cardenas
    • 1
  1. 1.Critical Care DepartmentUniversidad del Rosario Hospital Universitario Fundacion Santa Fe deBogotaColombia

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