The impact of lung cancer on patients and carers.
ABSTRACT This article aims to provide a brief review of the literature with regard to the impact of lung cancer on patients and their informal carers. Compared to other types of cancer, the distress associated with lung cancer has been found to be the most intense. Rather than focusing on symptoms in isolation recent emphasis regarding the symptom experience has been on symptoms clusters, as understanding these clusters may improve the management of ongoing and unrelieved symptoms. However, the disparities in methodology are significant barriers to producing comparable results, although recent efforts have been made to address these. Whilst research into symptoms has enormous potential for the management of symptom clusters, it needs to move away from the essentially reductionist stance which currently dominates and broaden its scope to one that acknowledges the complexity of the experience of symptom clusters from the perspective of the patient and their informal carer. Poor management of symptoms complicates patient care and potentially contributes to the heavy burden which often falls on family caregivers, especially as the disease progresses. The majority of studies focus on the experiences of primary care providers, most often the partner/spouse. Such studies have shown that spouses of patients with lung cancer exhibit significant distress and lower levels of quality of life than the general population. Research also indicates that significant others go through a transition process due to changes brought about by the diagnosis of lung cancer and struggle to endure and overcome difficulties and distress. Significant others were seen to suffer during this process of transition and experienced altered relationships. Clinicians working with patients suffering from lung cancer and their carers should intervene to enhance their quality of life from diagnosis, during the disease trajectory and during bereavement. Interventions need to be developed to support both patients and carers.