Understanding the symptoms experienced by individuals with lung cancer

Catherine A. Kiteley, Margaret I. Fitch


The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of patients’ experience of symptoms of lung cancer upon a first visit to a regional cancer centre and two months later. Sixteen patients were interviewed on two occasions about the symptoms, their impact and what they found most troublesome. Patients were also asked to describe any strategies they used to manage the symptoms. The most commonly identified symptoms were fatigue and pain. Participants described coping with multiple symptoms simultaneously, how those symptoms intensified over time, and using very few strategies. Participants described symptoms as troublesome because they interfered with activities of daily living or evoked emotional or cognitive responses. Fatigue was reported most frequently as troublesome. This work has implications for how patient assessments are conducted and how health care professionals listen to the patients. The patients’ descriptions of their symptoms and what strategies they applied is often embedded within the patients’ stories about living day-to-day with their lung cancer.

Full Text:



Arathuzik, D. (1991). Pain experience for metastatic breast cancer

patients. Cancer Nursing, 14, 41-48.

Bailey, A.J., Parma, M.K.B., & Stephens, R.J. (1998). Physical and

psychologic symptoms: Results of the continuous hyperfractionated

accelerated radiotherapy (CHART) randomized trial in non-small

cell lung cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 16, 3082-3093.

Blesch, K., Paice, J.A., Wickham, R., Harte, N., Schnoor, D.K., Purl,

S., et al. (1991). Correlates of fatigue in people with breast or lung

cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 18, 81-87.

Boring, C.C., Squires, T.S., Tong, T., & Montgomery, S. (1994). Cancer

statistics 1994. CA Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 44(1), 7-26.

Brown, M.L., Carrieri, V., Janson-Bjerklie, S., & Dodd, M. (1986).

Lung cancer and dyspnea: The patient’s perspective. Oncology

Nursing Forum, 13, 19-24.

Burt, P.A., O’Driscoll, B.R., Notley, H.M., Barber, P.V., & Stout, R.

(1990). Intraluminal irradiation for the palliation of lung cancer

with high dose rate micro-selectron. Thorax, 45, 765-768.

Coy, P., & Kennelly, G.M. (1980). The role of curative radiotherapy

in the treatment of lung cancer. Cancer, 45, 698-702.

Degner, L.F., & Sloan, J.A. (1995). Symptom distress in newly diagnosed

ambulatory cancer patients and as a predictor of survival in lung

cancer. Journal Pain and Symptom Management, 10(6), 423-31.

DeMaria, L.C., & Cohen, H.J. (1987). Characteristics of lung cancer

in elderly patients. Journal of Gerontology, 42, 540-545.

Edmonds, P., Karlsen, S., Khan, S., & Addington-Hall, J. (2001). A

comparison of the palliative care needs of patients dying from

chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Palliative Medicine,

, 287-295.

Foote, M., Sexton, D.L., & Pawlik, L. (1986). Dyspnea: A distressing

sensation in lung cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 13, 25-31.

Graydon, J.E., Bubela, N., Irvine, D., & Vincent, L. (1995). Fatiguereducing

strategies used by patients receiving treatment for cancer.

Cancer Nursing, 18, 23-28.

Greenberg, D.B., Sawicka, J., Eisenthal, S., & Ross, D. (1992).

Fatigue syndrome due to localized radiation. Journal of Pain and

Symptom Management, 7, 38-45.

Grossman, S.A., Sheidler, V.R., Swedeen, K., Mucenski, J., & Piantadosi,

F. (1991). Correlation of patients and caregiver ratings of cancer

pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 6, 53-57.

Hollen, P.J., Gralla, R.J., Kris, M.G., Eberly, S.W., & Cox, C. (1999).

Normative data and trends in quality of life from the Lung Cancer

Symptom Scale (LCSS). Supportive Care Cancer, 7, 140-148.

Holmes, S., & Eburn, E. (1989). Patients’ and nurses’ perceptions of

symptom distress in cancer. Journal of Advanced Nursing,

(10), 840-6.

Irvine, D.M., Vincent, L., Graydon, J.E., Bubela, N., & Thompson, L.

(1994). The prevalence and correlates of fatigue in patients

receiving treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Cancer

Nursing, 17, 367-378.

Lobchuk, M.M., Krisjanson, L.J., Degner, L.F., Blood, P., & Sloan,

J.A. (1997). Perceptions of symptom distress in lung cancer

patients. I: Congruence between patients and family caregivers.

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 14, 136-146.

Lutz, S.T., Huang, D.T., Ferguson, C.L., Kavanagh, B.D., Tercilla, O.F.,

& Lu, J. (1997). A retrospective quality of life analysis using the

lung cancer symptom scale in patients treated with palliative

radiotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. International

Journal of Oncology, Biology and Physics, 37, 117-122.

Marino, C., Zoppi, M., Morelli, F., Buoncristiano, U., & Pagni, E.

(1986). Pain in early cancer of the lungs. Pain, 27, 57-62.

McCorkle, R., & Quint-Benoliel, J. (1983). Symptom distress, current

concerns and mood disturbances after diagnosis of life-threatening

disease. Social Science Medicine, 17, 431-438.

Miaskowski, C., Lee, K.A., & Dibble, S. (1996). The relationship

between pain and fatigue in oncology outpatients. Oncology

Nursing Forum, 23(2), 351.

National Cancer Institute of Canada. (2005). Canadian cancer

statistics 2005. Toronto, Canada: Author.

Nerenz, D.R., & Leventhal, H. (1983). Self-regulation theory in

chronic illness. In T.G. Burnish & L.S. Bradley (Eds.), Coping

with chronic disease: research and application (pp. 13-37).

New York: Academic Press.

Polit, D. F., & Hungler, B.P. (2003). Nursing research: Principles

and methods. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.

Richardson, A. (1995). Fatigue in cancer patients: A review of the

literature. European Journal of Cancer Care, 4, 20-32.

Richardson, G. E., & Johnson, B.E. (1993). The biology of cancer.

Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 2, 105-127.

Sarna, L. (1993). Correlates of symptom distress in women with lung

cancer. Cancer Practice, 1, 21-28.

Tishelman, C., Degner, L.F., & Mueller, B. (2000). Measuring symptom

distress in patients with lung cancer. Cancer Nursing, 23, 82-90.

University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing

Management, Faculty Symptom Group. (1994). A model for

symptom management. Image, 26, 272-276.

Weber, R.P. (1990). Basic content analysis. California: Sage


Wilkie, D.J., & Keefe, F.J. (1991). Coping strategies of participants

with lung cancer-related pain. Clinical Journal of Pain and

Symptom Management, 7, 292-299.


  • There are currently no refbacks.