Lung cancer survivors remain underrepresented in research largely because of poor survival rates and a focus on advanced disease in acute illness phases. This study aimed to qualitatively explore the experiences of individuals after their primary treatment, living with or beyond lung cancer.
30-40 adult lung cancer survivors, 3-24 months post completion of initial active treatment who are part of the Sydney Catalyst EnRICH cohort study are being invited to participate. Participant demographic, clinical, quality of life (EORTC-QLQ-C30) and distress (NCCN Distress Thermometer) data are obtained through the EnRICH database. Individuals participate in a qualitative telephone interview, analysed using Framework methods.
By August 2020, nine interviews were conducted with 4 female and 5 male survivors aged 30-78, with cancer stages I-IV. Most participants had received multiple treatments; many had received immunotherapy or targeted treatment. Preliminary analyses revealed that most survivors were functioning well; several reported only minor ongoing physical effects, most commonly fatigue, inability to exercise, and weight gain. Most reported being hopeful about their future whilst simultaneously preparing for potential disease progression. Some survivors on immunotherapy/targeted treatment expressed gratitude for receiving a new treatment and hope for further medical advancements. Whilst a few experienced side effects (some rare/unanticipated) related to immunotherapy, these were considered tolerable given treatment success. Several survivors experienced cancer-related work disruptions, with some having to change careers, reduce hours, or stop working, causing financial stress. Almost all participants reported feeling at high risk of becoming seriously unwell or dying if they contracted COVID-19, therefore many were physically distancing/isolating to a high degree.
Preliminary results suggest lung cancer survivors are grateful for novel treatments and many cope relatively well in survivorship. Findings may help guide development of supportive care resources/interventions, particularly around areas of ongoing concern for survivors such as returning to work.