Objectives: Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, with high mortality rate and a significant burden of symptoms. It is therefore important to assess patients' perceived quality of life during the diagnostic process and treatment. Knowledge of and attention to patients' perspectives, experiences, and expectations in relation to lung cancer diagnostic pathways is limited. The aim of the study is to contribute with patients' and relatives' experiences with and their assessment of the quality of a hospital-based lung cancer diagnostic pathway.
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted, comprising participant observation with 20 patients and semi-structured interviews with further 19 patients referred to the Lung Cancer Package, which initiates a fast track diagnostic pathway in a hospital setting. Data were obtained over a period of 9 months and analysed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of health professionals. The purpose was to further develop existing management strategies of the fast track diagnostic pathway based on patient's perspectives.
Results: Patients associated the fast track diagnostic pathway with high levels of anxiety due to the immediate risk of a lung cancer diagnosis. Although patients experienced the fast track programme as very challenging, they still wanted to move through the diagnostic pathway as quickly as possible. The patients expressed a need for support from relatives and repeatedly required information in multiple formats from health professionals throughout the diagnostic pathway.
Conclusions: The study provided insight into the need for developing the fast track diagnostic pathway with a focus on patient anxiety, network involvement, and information strategies. The results qualified clinical practice with an increased focus on managing patients' anxiety, raised awareness to involve relatives in the diagnostic process, and relaying information in dialogue with patients and their relatives, including management strategies to support patients through diagnostic investigations in the fast track programme.