A systematic review found that behavioral cough suppression therapy (BCST) techniques may be transmitted by oncology nurses as a nonpharmacologic intervention for patients with lung cancer. These findings were published in Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

More than half of patients with lung cancer (56%) develop chronic cough that is associated with chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbance, among other negative effects. To assess whether BCST techniques may be appropriate for oncology nurses to discuss with their patients, a systematic review of articles on BCST published between 2010 and 2020 was conducted.

Patients can exhibit a dry, nonproductive cough or wet, productive cough. They should be stratified by cough type, and those with productive cough should be given mucolytics. Patients with a dry cough may be candidates for cough suppression intervention.

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BCST is an adaptation of behavioral therapy comprised of education, personal and psychoeducational training, and hydration strategies. Integrating BCST as a holistic approach is ideal for patients with lung cancer; however, this conclusion is based on limited data.

Studies found that patients who received a BCST intervention tended to have improved scores on the Manchester Cough in Lung Cancer Scale. Although not statistically significant, the intervention eased chronic cough for patients.

The role of the oncology nurse in BCST programs can be to identify triggers and treatable causes of cough, to facilitate referrals to specialists, and instruct family members and care givers.

Future research into BCST should focus on the optimal timing of a BCST intervention, how frequently BCST interventions should be provided, and which strategies improve BCST outcomes.

“Ultimately, oncology nurses specializing in lung cancer care are in a prime position to carry out BCST techniques, teach family caregivers the intervention protocol, and perform research to evaluate the efficacy of BCST in lung cancer-induced cough over time,” the researchers concluded.


Shin J, Bush NJ. Integration of behavioral cough suppression therapy into lung cancer care: nonpharmacologic interventions for chronic cough. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2022;26(1):40-47. doi:10.1188/22.CJON.40-47