There is a paucity of research exploring patients' and their informal carers' experience of coping with and factors impacting on the lung cancer experience. This study aims to explore how patients and their informal carers cope with a diagnosis of lung cancer and describe the key factors that mediate distress in this population in order that they may be better supported in the future. This was a qualitative study employing semi-structured interviews and framework analysis to elicit the experience of 37 patients with lung cancer and 23 primary carers regarding their coping with and factors influencing patient/carer distress. The findings illustrate that participants used both emotional- and problem-focused coping strategies, including accepting the reality of lung cancer, adopting a positive attitude/fighting spirit, denial, avoidance and distraction and information seeking. Maintaining normality was also important. Key factors that mediate the lung cancer experience were also identified including hope, social network, prior experience of cancer and other chronic illnesses, the competing coping strategies of patients and their primary carers, the unpredictable nature of patients' behaviour, changing symptomatology, the perceived attitudes of health professionals and the impact of perceived delays in diagnosis. This study provides important insights into how patients with lung cancer and their primary carers might be better supported.