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Exploring the experience of recurrence with advanced cancer for people who perceived themselves to be cancer free: a grounded theory study

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/07/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Supportive Care in Cancer
Issue number7
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)3885-3894
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date2/01/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Advances in cancer treatment have led to longer cancer-free periods and overall survival. This study aimed to understand patients’ experiences of transitioning out of a state of believing to be cancer free into incurable recurrence with advanced disease.

Using constructivist grounded theory with in-depth interviews patients (n = 15) with solid tumors from a major US cancer center participated. Theoretical sampling enabled concepts to be developed until theme saturation. Constant comparative analysis used initial and focused coding to develop themes and concepts to describe this specific period from extended time cancer free and transition to advanced incurable disease.

Three interrelated concepts were identified: reluctant acceptance, seeking survival through continuous treatment, and hope in the face of an uncertain future. A conceptual model of the experience was developed encompassing anger and sadness, at initial recurrence, to reluctant acceptance, and, finally, a cycle of seeking continuous treatment to prolong life leading to a sense of hope in the face of an uncertain future.

The cycle between treatment and hope creates a state of personal equilibrium, which provides insights into the importance of treatment for this population. This study provides direction for future research to understand the expectations of people experiencing advanced cancer recurrence.

Implications for cancer survivors
Many cancer survivors live with advanced cancer. Assessing their needs as they transition from survivor with no disease to survivor with advanced disease requires a new conceptualization of the experience which recognizes expectations and priorities for care of this patient group.

Bibliographic note

The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05956-2