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Psychooncology. 2008 Jul;17(7):709-15.

Dyspnea experience and management strategies in patients with lung cancer.

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  • 1Institute of Health and Care Sciences, The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden. ihh



The aim of this paper was to describe lung cancer patients' experience of dyspnea and their strategies for managing the dyspnea.


Semi-structured interviews with two main questions about dyspnea experiences and management were conducted with 20 patients with lung cancer, not amenable to curative treatment, who had completed life prolonging treatments. Data analysis was made with a descriptive, qualitative content analysis.


The two questions resulted in two domains with 7 categories and subcategories. The experience of dyspnea included four categories: 'Triggering factors' included circumstances contributing to dyspnea, which comprised physical, psychosocial and environmental triggers. Bodily manifestations were considered to be the core of the experience. 'Immediate reactions' concerned physical and psychological impact. The long-term reactions included limitations, increased dependence and existential impact concerning hope, hopelessness and thoughts of death. The experience of managing dyspnea included three categories: 'Bodily strategies', 'psychological strategies' and 'medical strategies'.


Dyspnea experience is a complex experience which influences the life of the patients both with immediate reactions and long-term reactions concerning physical, emotional and existential issues in life and patients address this experience with managing strategies in order to take control of their situation, although they do not seem to be able to meet the existential distress they experience.

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