Integrating self-management into daily life following primary treatment: head and neck cancer survivors’ perspectives
Self-management may help cancer survivors to better deal with challenges to their physical, functional, social and psychological well-being presented by cancer and its treatment. Nonetheless, little is known about how people integrate cancer self-management practices into their daily lives. The aim of this study was to describe and characterise the processes through which head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors attempt to integrate self-management into their daily lives following primary treatment.
Using a purposeful critical case sampling method, 27 HNC survivors were identified through four designated cancer centres in Ireland and participated in face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.
Six themes describing HNC survivors’ attempts to integrate self-management into their lives following treatment were identified: grappling with having to self-manage, trying out self-management strategies, becoming an expert self-manager, struggling to integrate self-management strategies into daily life, avoiding recommended self-management and interpreting self-management.
This is the first study to describe HNC survivors’ attempts to integrate self-management into their daily lives following primary treatment. The findings indicate that HNC survivors exhibit highly individualised approaches to self-management integration and abandon self-management strategies that fail to meet their own specific needs.
Implications for Cancer Survivors
Survivors may benefit from skills training and structured support to assist their transition between in-patient care and having to self-manage after primary treatment, and/or ongoing support to deal with persistent and recurring challenges such as eating difficulties and fear of recurrence.
KeywordsHead and neck cancer Cancer survivorship Self-management Qualitative Psycho-oncology
We would like to thank the participants and Fiona Bradley, Carol Brennan, Annemarie Farrelly and Marie Manning for their assistance in recruitment.
This study was funded by the Irish Cancer Society and the Health Research Board in Ireland under Grant No. SRP13GAL, MRCG/2013/11. AT was also supported by a grant from the Health Research Board (ICE/2012/9).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. We received formal ethical approval for the study from the following institutions in Ireland: Galway University Hospitals (Merlin Park University Hospital Clinical REC_C.A.1100); South/South West Hospital Group (UCC Clinical REC_ECM_4_(bbb)_03/06/14); St. James’s Hospital, Dublin (SJH/AMNCH REC Reference: 2014/05/Chairman’s_Action), Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin (RVEEH REC_25/06/14).
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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