An Exploratory Study into the Traumatic Impact of Advanced Cancer among Patients and Partners

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Fiona Broderick
Tim Deignan
Helen Combes


People living with cancer may experience both psychological distress and a sense of personal development. These two responses can be conceptualised using theories of post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG), respectively. This hospice-based study investigated the range of experiences of people living with advanced cancer and of their partners, with consideration of how theories of PTS and PTG resonated with their accounts. Strategic sampling (n=11) was used to gather data from eight individuals living with advanced cancer and from three individuals caring for someone with the diagnosis. Q methodology was used to investigate the participants’ subjective experiences. A set of 62 statements, informed by theories of trauma, were sorted by the participants according to the extent to which the individual statements were consistent with their personal experiences of living with cancer. The participants were then interviewed about their Q sorts, to consider the personal meanings that had informed their statement rankings. The Q sort data were factor analysed, and theories of PTS and PTG were used to aid the interpretation of four differing viewpoints: “Accepting and Growing,†“Fearful yet Adapting,†“Resigned and Grieving†and “Traumatised.†These different expressions of the positive and negative feelings associated with living with advanced cancer are considered in relation to professional healthcare provision. The study recommends that future research involve a broader sample of individuals, including patients not accessing hospice care, the partners of this population and cancer healthcare professionals.

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Broderick, F., Deignan, T., & Combes, H. (2017). An Exploratory Study into the Traumatic Impact of Advanced Cancer among Patients and Partners. Operant Subjectivity, 39(3/4). Retrieved from