Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 187–195 | Cite as

Perspectives of newly diagnosed advanced cancer patients receiving dignity therapy during cancer treatment

  • Ann Marie DoseEmail author
  • Lori M. Rhudy
Original Article



Dignity therapy is a psychosocial intervention that has been used primarily at the end of life to improve quality of life and other patient outcomes, but many individuals are unable to complete it due to health decline and death. The purpose of this study was to identify what individuals with advanced pancreatic or lung cancer with limited life expectancy, undergoing active cancer treatment describe during the dignity therapy intervention as important to them when not immediately facing end of life.


Twenty patients undergoing chemotherapy for advanced cancer participated in a dignity therapy intervention study. Initial interviews were analyzed using descriptive content analysis.


Family provided the overall context and background for emerging themes of defining events, accomplishments, and God’s plan, which led to lessons learned, and resulted in messages of hope. Interviews were often autobiographical in nature and contained much reminiscence, consistent with dignity therapy’s intent. Few participants spoke about their cancer diagnoses during the interview.


This study adds unique insight into the use of dignity therapy for those still receiving active cancer treatment, different from work by others in which it was offered only at end of life. As part of supportive care, clinicians need to validate the importance of family to those with advanced cancer and to provide opportunities for patients to share what they have learned throughout life and to impart messages of hope to those closest to them.


Dignity therapy Qualitative research Palliative care Generativity document 



People: The authors would like to acknowledge Catherine Krecke for expert coordination of this study.

Grants: This publication was made possible by CTSA Grant Number UL1 TR000135 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and by the Saint Marys Hospital Sponsorship Board. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NIH or Saint Marys Hospital.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was approved by the Mayo Clinic institutional review board.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NursingMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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