A qualitative exploration of a respiratory distress symptom cluster in lung cancer: cough, breathlessness and fatigue

Lung Cancer. 2011 Jan;71(1):94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 May 2.


There is a growing awareness that symptoms frequently co-occur in 'symptom clusters' and that understanding these clusters may improve the management of unrelieved symptoms in patients. In-depth longitudinal exploration of lung cancer patients' symptom experiences is used to examine patient symptom experiences and distress across the disease trajectory of lung cancer.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients and their primary caregivers at four time points: at the beginning of treatment and then subsequently at three, six, and twelve months. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was employed in the data analysis.

Findings: Findings indicate that a cluster of interacting respiratory symptoms play a central role in patients' symptom experiences within the lung cancer population. The interviews also suggest that symptoms such as cough which are under-represented in research within this population may play an important role in patients' symptom experiences.

Discussion: Longitudinal qualitative investigation offers a valuable method for improving our understanding of patients' experiences of lung cancer and for identifying potential opportunities to improve patient quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Dyspnea / etiology*
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Lung Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged