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31-05-2021 Open Access

How patients being treated for non-small cell lung cancer value treatment benefit despite side effects

Quality of Life Research
Mona L. Martin, Julia Correll, Andrew Walding, Anna Rydén
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-021-02882-6.

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Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



To describe symptoms and side effects experienced by patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), assess how patients allocate sensations (i.e. symptoms or side effects) to either the disease or its treatment, and evaluate how patients balance side effects with treatment benefits.


Qualitative sub-studies were conducted as part of two clinical trials in patients treated for advanced NSCLC (AURA [NCT01802632]; ARCTIC [NCT02352948]).


Interviews were conducted with 23 patients and 19 patients in the AURA and ARCTIC sub-studies, respectively. The most commonly experienced symptoms/side effects were respiratory (81% of patients), digestive (76%), pain and discomfort (76%), energy-related (71%), and sensory (62%). Patients identified a sensation as a treatment side effect if they had not experienced it before, if there was a temporal link between the sensation and receipt of treatment, and/or if their doctors consistently told or asked them about it in relation to side effects. Themes that emerged when patients talked about their cancer treatment and its side effects related to the serious nature of their advanced disease and their treatment expectations. Patients focused on treatment benefits, wanting a better quality of life, being hopeful, not really having a choice, and not thinking about side effects.


In these two qualitative sub-studies, patients with advanced NSCLC valued the benefits of their treatment regardless of side effects that they experienced. Patients weighed their options against the seriousness of their disease and expressed their willingness to tolerate their side effects in return for receiving continued treatment benefits.

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