According to a study by the National Cancer Institute, nearly 45% of all cancer patients experience serious sleep disorders, compared to just 25% of the general population. Undiagnosed sleep-related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous for patients undergoing anesthesia for surgical procedures. Patients with sleep disorders may also be more sensitive to narcotic pain medications, and prone to fatigue from lack of sleep, limiting their ability to fight their disease.
This month, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center will open an in-hospital state-of-the-art sleep diagnostic center to help patients overcome sleep disorders in conjunction with their cancer care. The sleep diagnostic center is the latest in a myriad of services available at the hospital designed to help patients maintain the health and strength they need to battle cancer. CTCA hospitals across the nation have successfully integrated sleep diagnostic centers into their treatment programs, serving hundreds of patients suffering from cancer-related sleep disorders.
“When battling cancer, patients must be strong in mind and body in order to fight the disease,” says Yiping Fu, MD, interventional pulmonologist, sleep specialist, and medical director of the sleep program at CTCA at Midwestern, in a release. “By treating secondary health issues, such as sleep disorders, we are able to help patients achieve optimal health before, during, and after treatment.”
During a sleep study, patients are connected to computerized monitoring equipment to track heart and brainwave activity, eye and leg movements, breathing, muscle tone, and blood oxygen levels. Sleep studies take place in specially designed sleep rooms, which are complete with comfortable beds, TVs, and a soothing decor to help patients feel at home. Patients are welcome to bring personal belongings to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed, as the study should closely mimic a “normal” night’s sleep. Throughout the night, sleep experts, registered polysomnographic technologists (RPSGTs), monitor each patient’s activity from a centrally located control room.
“Identifying any of the 70 known sleep disorders may benefit a cancer patient by improving their tolerance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and increasing their physical, psychological, and cognitive functioning,” adds Fu.
After a patient’s sleep study is performed and evaluated, and it is determined that a sleeping disorder is present, the sleep specialist prescribes the appropriate therapy and follow-up in accordance with the patient’s personalized cancer treatment plan.
“At CTCA, we provide leading-edge treatment while also focusing on helping patients achieve a strong quality of life,” says Jerry Butts, cardiopulmonary director at CTCA. “The sleep center is an example of our commitment.”
Sleeplessness is common among cancer patients and can be caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, or result from narcotic pain medication or high levels of stress.
“It is important to ask patients about their quality of sleep because over time, it can seriously impact their quality of life,” Fu says. “Caregivers are often impacted too, leading to fatigue and in some cases depression.”
In addition to sleep experts, CTCA focuses strongly on nutrition support and mind body medicine, all designed to help patients minimize stress and focus on healthy living during treatment.