The experience of cough in patients diagnosed with lung cancer

Support Care Cancer. 2011 Dec;19(12):1997-2004. doi: 10.1007/s00520-010-1050-3. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the patient experience of cough in a population of patients with lung cancer.

Methods: A qualitative exploratory study design was developed and elicited the views of 26 patients with lung cancer who had current or past experience with cough.

Results: The data's four themes highlight the complex and distressing nature of cough, including its interaction with other symptoms, such as breathlessness, fatigue and sleep disturbance. A theme around descriptions of cough suggests typically a dry tickly cough and highlights mechanical and environmental triggers for cough. The theme around the effects of cough in daily life shows the impact of cough in socialising, the embarrassment from cough and the psychological effects experienced by patients. The last theme focuses on strategies for coping with and managing cough, showing the perceived ineffectiveness of current antitussives and the patients' use of a variety of approaches on an ad hoc basis to try to manage their cough often unsuccessfully.

Conclusion: Cough has not received the same attention as other cancer symptoms, which means that patients' experience of a distressing and difficult symptom is often unnoticed by health care professionals. More clinical and research attention in this debilitating symptom is necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cough / etiology
  • Cough / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lung Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • United Kingdom