Background As non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatments improve and patients live longer, it is important to develop interventions to help patients live fuller lives. We sought to identify key components of quality of life (QOL) in determining therapeutic decision making and overall value of life extension in patients with NSCLC. Methods Three focus groups (n = 16) and telephone interviews (n = 15) were conducted with NSCLC patients (N = 31) to explore symptoms considered important to QOL. A trade-off format was used to assess the value of life extension relative to QOL. Patients were asked to consider a hypothetical treatment option offering a modest (3 month) life extension. Results Patients' mean age was 61.6 years, 67.6% were women, 77.4% were white, and 48.4% had stage III/IV disease. In all, 68% of patients conceptualized emotions as symptoms of NSCLC. Key symptoms changed over time: Patients reported feeling shock and fear at diagnosis (74%), and feeling fear or loneliness during the beginning of therapy (55%). Additionally, patients who reported successfully connecting with other NSCLC patients (peers), support groups, and/or community members reported a positive shift in feelings (52%) as they continued therapy or moved into a posttherapy phase. Financially, 23% of patients reported being adversely affected by copayments, 36% by unexpected gaps in coverage, and 39% by other bills. Patients reported that the most important dimension driving their decision making about life-extending therapy was somatic (84%), followed by functional (32%), relational (23%), and emotional (10%) dimensions. Limitations Study participants were likely to have received some education or support from the recruiting cancer advoca cy and patient education/support organizations. In addition, participants were of a higher socioeconomic status than the average lung cancer patient population. Conclusions Patients with NSCLC confated emotional well-being after diagnosis with symptoms of their cancer and treatment toxicities. Somatic QOL concerns emerged ahead of functional, emotional, and relational QOL concerns as the dominant driver of therapeutic decision making.
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