The experience of living with advanced-stage cancer: a thematic synthesis of the literature

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Abstract

The aim of the study was to understand the experience of people living with advanced-stage cancer through literature. The search included The Cochrane Library, PubMed, PsycInfo, CINAHL and Cuiden. Thirteen studies were included. A qualitative meta-synthesis was conducted. One thread emerged from the thematic synthesis: the desire to live as normally as possible, despite being aware of the proximity of death. Three themes also emerged: “a process that is unique” with its four sub-themes; “support network” and “health context,” each of them having two sub-themes. This study concludes that living with advanced-stage cancer is a unique and complex process which has both positive and negative aspects. The review provides a comprehensive view of the experience, which considers the importance of the support network and the health context in which the person lives. In this study, “normalcy” is the adjustment to the new reality and living as closely as possible to the way one lived before the disease, while developing a new relationship with being finite and death. A better understanding of the experience of living with advanced-stage cancer will help health professionals to identify the needs of the patients in order to plan individual, high-quality care.

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