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The social and emotional toll of chemotherapy – patients’ perspectives


  • T. MITCHELL rgn , rm , dip.n(lond), b.ed(hons), rnt, phd

    1. Principal Lecturer, University of the West of England and Research Consultant to Nursing Practice, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK
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Theresa Mitchell, Barwell, Sterrys Lane, May Hill, Nr Longhope, Glos GL17 0NF, UK (e-mail:


The aim of this paper is to briefly describe the unique methodology employed by nine nurse researchers who conducted research into the social and emotional effects of chemotherapy from the patient’s perspective, and to present four dominant themes. The research developed from discussions at a local UK Nurses Oncology Forum, during which nurses voiced their concern about the social and emotional implications for people receiving chemotherapy. It was anticipated that understanding the issues from the patient’s perspective would assist nurses to reconsider and reshape the care provided, particularly in the chemotherapy clinic. Using principles of phenomenology, the nurse researchers collected data from participants using conversational-style interviews. Some participants kept diaries of chemotherapy experiences. These data were subsequently analysed using a modified phenomenological analysis framework. Nineteen people were recruited to the study, resulting in 98 interviews and seven diaries. Eight major themes emerged from the data: striving for normality, the role of significant others, feeling up – feeling down, flagging, being sociable, anxiety, the chemotherapy process, and participating in the research. Relationship dynamics, the perceived role of significant others and the frustrations associated with lack of concentration and memory loss are important findings that should influence nursing care and management.

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