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Illness-Related Emotional Experiences of Patients Living With Incurable Lung Cancer: A Qualitative Metasynthesis

Refsgaard, Birgit MScN, RN; Frederiksen, Kirsten PhD, MEd, RN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318268f983

Background: Living with incurable lung cancer often drastically changes the patients’ lives physically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually. The emotional experiences of patients with incurable lung cancer have been studied with a qualitative approach, but the findings are yet to be synthesized.

Objective: The objective of this study was to synthesize interpreted knowledge on the illness-related emotional experiences of patients with incurable lung cancer.

Methods: A qualitative metasynthesis was carried out to integrate the findings from 10 qualitative studies conducted between 1995 and 2011. The studies were critically appraised according to the method defined by Sandelowski and Barroso, and the findings were extracted, edited, and abstracted. The concept “loss” was imported as a method to synthesize the findings.

Results: Eight themes of emotional experiences emerged: “guilt, blame, shame, and stigmatization,” “hope and despair,” “loneliness,” “changing in self-image and self-worth,” “uselessness and dependency,” “uncertainty and worries,” “anxiety and fear,” and “loss.” The loss experiences were categorized as unrecognized and clear losses.

Conclusion: This study supports that patients with incurable lung cancer undergo illness-related emotions that can be identified as losses. Further studies are required to determine the best way for nurses to implement emotional care.

Implications for Practice: Nurses play an important role in the acknowledgement of unrecognized and clear losses while caring for patients with incurable lung cancer.

Author Affiliations: Department of Respiratory Diseases, Aarhus University Hospital (Ms Refsgaard), and Faculty of Health Science, Department of Nursing Science, Aarhus University (Dr Frederiksen), Denmark.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Birgit Refsgaard, MScN, RN, Department of Respiratory Diseases, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (

Accepted for publication July 4, 2012.

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins