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Cancer patients’ experiences of the diagnosis and treatment of incidental pulmonary embolism (a qualitative study)

Benelhaj, Naima E.; Hutchinson, Ann; Maraveyas, Anthony; Johnson, Miriam


Naima E. Benelhaj


Background: The diagnosis of symptomatic cancer-associated thrombosis often causes distress and alarm for patients, especially for those unaware of the risk, or the signs and symptoms to look out for. There are few data about cancer patients’ experiences of incidentally diagnosed pulmonary embolism (IPE), where lack of warning (recognised signs, symptoms) may cause delayed diagnosis and aggravate distress. Objectives: To explore cancer patients’ experience of the diagnosis of and living with incidental pulmonary embolism treated with anticoagulation. Methods: A qualitative study using modified grounded theory approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted as part of a mixed- methods prospective observational survey study of consenting patients with IPE. Data were subjected to thematic analysis. The qualitative findings are presented. Findings: Eleven participants were interviewed (mean age 68.3 years, range 38–82 years; various forms of cancer and stages). Three major themes and one cross-cutting theme were generated. Theme (1): IPE is experienced in the context of cancer and concomitant comorbidities. Issues are understood in the shadow of–and often overshadowed by—current serious illness. Theme (2): Being diagnosed with IPE. Misattribution to cancer or other comorbidities caused delay in help-seeking and diagnosis. Theme (3): Coping with anticoagulation. Participants’ incorporated anticoagulation treatment and its effects into their daily routine with acceptance and stoicism. Finally, the cross-cutting theme relates to a lack of information and uncertainty, contributing to distress throughout the experience. Conclusion: The diagnosis of IPE was upsetting and unexpected. Expert and timely information was valued by those with IPE. Education called for about the increased risk of cancer-associated thrombosis and the signs and symptoms to be aware of.


Benelhaj, N. E., Hutchinson, A., Maraveyas, A., & Johnson, M. (2022). Cancer patients’ experiences of the diagnosis and treatment of incidental pulmonary embolism (a qualitative study). PLoS ONE, 17(10), Article e0276754.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 25, 2022
Publication Date Oct 25, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 27, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 28, 2022
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 10
Article Number e0276754
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Published article (379 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2022 Benelhaj et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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