Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 1997–2004 | Cite as

The experience of cough in patients diagnosed with lung cancer

  • Alex Molassiotis
  • Matthew Lowe
  • Jacqueline Ellis
  • Richard Wagland
  • Chris Bailey
  • Mari Lloyd-Williams
  • Carol Tishelman
  • Jaclyn Smith
Original Article



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


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.


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.


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.


Lung cancer Cough Qualitative design Symptom management 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Molassiotis
    • 1
  • Matthew Lowe
    • 1
  • Jacqueline Ellis
    • 2
  • Richard Wagland
    • 3
  • Chris Bailey
    • 3
  • Mari Lloyd-Williams
    • 2
  • Carol Tishelman
    • 4
  • Jaclyn Smith
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social WorkUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Academic Palliative and Supportive Care Research Group, Division of Primary CareUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  3. 3.School of Health ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and EthicsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Department of Translational MedicineUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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