Screening for Brain Metastases in Patients With NSCLC: A Qualitative Study on the Psychologic Impact of Being Diagnosed With Asymptomatic Brain Metastases

Janna J.A.O. Schoenmaekers, Jeroen Bruinsma, Claire Wolfs, Lidia Barberio, Anita Brouns, Anne Marie C. Dingemans, Lizza E.L. Hendriks*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: The brain is a frequent site of metastases in NSCLC, and screening for asymptomatic brain metastases (BM) is increasingly advised in NSCLC guidelines. An asymptomatic BM diagnosis may trigger anxiety for future neurologic problems and can negatively affect quality of life of patients and their relatives. Therefore, we performed this qualitative study. Methods: Three focus group discussions were organized with patients with NSCLC and asymptomatic BM (N = 3–4 per group) and separately with their relatives, to explore this psychosocial impact. Two researchers independently performed an inductive content analysis. Results: A total of 10 patients and 10 relatives participated in six focus groups. A diagnosis of BM caused feelings of distress and anxiety in both patients and relatives. These feelings diminished over time in case of a tumor responding to systemic therapy. The diagnosis of BM was not perceived as more distressful than other metastases, and scan-related anxiety was not experienced. Although magnetic resonance imaging screening and follow-up were thought of as burdensome, follow-up was valued. The coping strategies of both groups seemed related to personality and to the efficacy of the given systemic therapy. Relatives appreciated peer support of other relatives during the focus groups, and they seemed open for future psychological support. Conclusions: Asymptomatic BM diagnosis can cause anxiety and distress, but this diminishes over time with effective systemic treatment. Although patients perceive magnetic resonance imaging as burdensome, they value follow-up screening and imaging. Relatives highly appreciated peer support, and psychological distress of relatives should not be overlooked.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100401
JournalJTO Clinical and Research Reports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Longfonds (grant number and an unrestricted grant from
Roche Genentech. The authors want to thank the patients and their family and friends for participating in the focus groups.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors


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