Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 2053–2060 | Cite as

Coping with physical and psychological symptoms: a qualitative study of advanced lung cancer patients and their family caregivers

  • Catherine E. MosherEmail author
  • Mary A. Ott
  • Nasser Hanna
  • Shadia I. Jalal
  • Victoria L. Champion
Original Article



Advanced lung cancer patients have high rates of multiple physical and psychological symptoms, and many of their family caregivers experience significant distress. However, little is known about strategies that these patients and their family caregivers employ to cope with physical and psychological symptoms. This study aimed to identify strategies for coping with various physical and psychological symptoms among advanced, symptomatic lung cancer patients and their primary family caregivers.


Patients identified their primary family caregiver. Individual semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 21 advanced, symptomatic lung cancer patients and primary family caregivers. Thematic analysis of interview data was framed by stress and coping theory.


Patients and caregivers reported maintaining a normal routine and turning to family and friends for support with symptom management, which often varied in its effectiveness. Whereas support from health-care professionals and complementary and alternative medicine were viewed favorably, reactions to Internet and in-person support groups were mixed due to the tragic nature of participants’ stories. Several cognitive coping strategies were frequently reported (i.e., changing expectations, maintaining positivity, and avoiding illness-related thoughts) as well as religious coping strategies.


Results suggest that advanced lung cancer patients and caregivers may be more receptive to cognitive and religious approaches to symptom management and less receptive to peer support. Interventions should address the perceived effectiveness of support from family and friends.


Lung neoplasms Caregivers Adaptation Psychological Symptoms Complementary therapies Religion 



This work was supported by grant RR025761 from the National Center for Research Resources and grant K07CA168883 from the National Cancer Institute. The authors would like to thank the study participants and Heather A. Jaynes and Joseph G. Winger for their assistance.

Conflict of interest

Remuneration and stock ownership in Eli Lilly, Inc. (M. Ott). The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine E. Mosher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary A. Ott
    • 2
  • Nasser Hanna
    • 3
  • Shadia I. Jalal
    • 3
  • Victoria L. Champion
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.Indiana University School of NursingIndianapolisUSA

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