Managing symptoms in patients with advanced lung cancer during radiotherapy: results of a psychoeducational randomized controlled trial

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Feb;41(2):347-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.04.024. Epub 2010 Dec 4.


Context: Breathlessness, fatigue, and anxiety are distressing symptoms for patients with advanced lung cancer. Usually managed as isolated symptoms, they often can occur simultaneously. Previous research often has addressed management of discrete symptoms rather than considering them as a cluster, which, in reality, is the situation faced by patients.

Objectives: This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of a psychoeducational intervention (PEI) on the symptom cluster of anxiety, breathlessness, and fatigue, compared with usual care.

Methods: A pretest/post-test, two-group, randomized, controlled trial was conducted. Education on symptom management and coaching in the use of progressive muscle relaxation were delivered to patients one week prior to commencing radiotherapy (RT), and repeated three weeks after beginning RT. Symptom data were collected at four time points: prior to the intervention, three weeks, six weeks, and 12 weeks postintervention.

Results: One hundred forty lung cancer patients receiving palliative RT were recruited from a publicly funded hospital in Hong Kong. Doubly multivariate analysis of variance revealed a significant difference (time×group interaction effect, P=0.003) over time between the PEI and usual care control group on the pattern of change of the symptom cluster. Significant effects on the patterns of changes in breathlessness (P=0.002), fatigue (P=0.011), anxiety (P=0.001), and functional ability (P=0.000) also were found.

Conclusion: PEI is a promising treatment for relieving the symptom cluster and each of the individually assessed symptoms. More effort needs to be directed at studying impact of interventions on common symptom clusters.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Dyspnea / therapy*
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Quality of Life
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Treatment Outcome