Communication Difficulties and the Experience of Loneliness in Patients With Cancer Dealing With Fertility Issues: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Purpose/Objectives:

To explore communication difficulties and the experience of loneliness among patients with cancer dealing with fertility issues.

Design:

Qualitative study based on grounded theory principles.

Setting:

One university hospital and two general hospitals in Flanders, Belgium.

Sample:

21 female and 7 male patients with cancer with potential fertility problems as a result of treatment.

Methods:

Grounded theory approach using the constant comparison method; data collection (semistructured face-to-face interviews) and analysis occurred simultaneously.

Findings:

Loneliness was a central theme in the experience of potential fertility loss among patients with cancer. Feelings of loneliness resulted from communication difficulties between the patient and members of his or her social environment or healthcare professionals because of several underlying processes and influencing factors.

Conclusions:

Loneliness was a strong and common feeling among patients with cancer. Patients, members of their social environment, and healthcare professionals experienced difficulties in communicating about fertility in the context of cancer, leading to patients' feelings of loneliness.

Implications for Nursing:

Healthcare professionals must be attentive to signs indicating loneliness regarding fertility concerns, and they should provide adequate information and appropriate guidance to support patients. Professionals need further training to improve knowledge and skills.

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