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The Coping and Support Needs of Incurable Cancer Patients

Viitala, Anu, RN; Saukkonen, Marita, RN; Lehto, Juho, T., MD, PhD; Palonen, Mira, PhD; Åstedt-Kurki, Päivi, PhD

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: April 2018 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 187–194
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000427
Feature Articles

The purposes of this study were to describe the coping processes and support needs of patients with incurable cancer. The study was conducted as a qualitative study. The research data were gathered by conducting thematic interviews with outpatients with incurable cancer (n = 16) and analyzed by means of inductive content analysis. The results of the study indicate that the lives of patients were temporarily interrupted by the incurable illness. A sympathetic family was perceived as strength, and after the initial shock, the patients began to rebuild their lives. They had conflicting thoughts about cancer treatment. The patients felt that they were courageous, but fragile, in the face of their illness. They prepared for the approaching death by discussing the issue with their family members and friends and planning their own palliative care. The patients expected to be approached holistically. The results of this study are applicable in circumstances in which health care professionals are preparing to approach an incurable cancer patient as an individual, instead of simply as a medical case. The results can also be utilized to develop evidence-based, family-oriented palliative nursing for cancer patients and to better identify the expectations and needs of the patients while receiving treatment.

Anu Viitala, RN, is MNSc student, Palliative Care Unit, Department of Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, Finland.

Marita Saukkonen, RN, is MNSc student, Palliative Care Unit, Department of Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, Finland.

Juho T. Lehto, MD, PhD, is chief physician, Palliative Care Unit, Department of Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, and Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland.

Mira Palonen, PhD, is university instructor, Nursing Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland.

Päivi Åstedt-Kurki, PhD, is professor, Nursing Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, and General Administration, Pirkanmaa Hospital District, Tampere, Finland.

Address correspondence to Anu Viitala, RN, Palliative Care Unit, Department of Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, Teiskontie 35, 33521 Tampere, Finland (viitaanuj@gmail.com).

A.V. and M.S. share first authorship of this article.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2018 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.