An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the lived experience of multiple concurrent symptoms in patients with lung cancer: a contribution to the study of symptom clusters

Roma Maguire, Kathleen Stoddart, Paul Flowers, John McPhelim, Nora Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE OF THE RESEARCH: To explore the lived experience of multiple concurrent symptoms in people with advanced lung cancer to contribute to the understanding of the experience of symptom clusters.

METHODS AND SAMPLE: Purposive sampling recruited ten people with advanced lung cancer who were experiencing three or more concurrent symptoms, were at least 18 years of age and were able to provide written informed consent. The participants took part in two consecutive, in-depth interviews, 3-5 weeks apart. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse the data.

FINDINGS: Participants experienced 4-11 concurrent symptoms with fatigue, cough, pain and breathlessness featuring prominently in their interviews. The participants commonly identified associations between the symptoms that they experienced, with the occurrence of one symptom often used to explain the occurrence of another. Reductions in physical and social functioning were often associated with the experience of multiple concurrent symptoms, particularly at times of high symptom severity. The participants' highlighted breathlessness and cough as being of particular salience, due to the association of these symptoms with fear of death and visibility and embarrassment in public.

CONCLUSIONS: People with lung cancer experience multiple concurrent symptoms and perceive relationships between the symptoms experienced. Within the experience of multiple symptoms, people with lung cancer highlight individual symptoms that are of particular importance, based on their concomitant meanings. Such findings provide vital information for the future development of meaning-based symptom cluster interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-315
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014


  • lung neoplasms
  • multiple symptoms
  • symptom clusters
  • Humans

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