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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/3423

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Title: Where is the Person in Symptom Cluster Research? The Experience of Symptom Clusters in Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer
Author(s): Maguire, Roma
Supervisor(s): Kearney, Nora
Stoddart, Kath
Keywords: Symptom Clusters
Lung Cancer
Qualitative research
Patient Experience
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Where is the Person in Symptom Cluster Research? The Experience of Symptom Clusters in Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer This thesis describes a three-year qualitative study which aimed to explore the experience of symptom clusters in patients with advanced lung cancer. The study employed a patient-focused approach utilising Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith et al. 2009a). This methodology (IPA), informed by a contextual constructionist stance, was selected to explore the experience of symptom clusters, for its focus on the lived experience, the context and meanings which surround such experiences and its idiographic approach. Ten patients (a sample size which is the upper limit of the number of participants advocated for studies employing IPA (Smith et al. 2009b;Reid et al. 2005;Smith and Osborn 2004)) with advanced lung cancer took part in the study and data were collected using unstructured, in-depth interviews at two time points: on recruitment and three to five weeks later. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, within the framework advocated by Smith and Osborn (2003). The study generated interesting and significant findings. The experience of symptom clusters in patients with advanced lung cancer was characterised by two super-ordinate themes: ‘The lived experience of symptom clusters and the role of context and meaning’ and ‘Symptom clusters and loss of sense of self’. The super-ordinate theme of ‘The lived experience of symptom clusters and the role of context and meaning’ in the first instance, illustrates that the participants in this study were experiencing symptom clusters and providing detail on the components, nature and patterning of the symptom clusters reported, particularly the way that one or two salient symptoms were commonly highlighted from all the other symptoms experienced. This super-ordinate theme also demonstrates the core role that context and meaning play in the lived experience of symptom clusters, with many of the participants in this study framing their experiences of symptom clusters within a fear of death, stigma and loss of sense of self. The second super-ordinate theme informing this thesis is ‘Symptom clusters and loss of sense of self’. This super-ordinate theme illustrates the impact of symptom clusters on the participants’ lives, and how this, in turn, impacted on their sense of self in a number of different ways. For some, their sense of self was compromised by the concurrent symptoms that they were experiencing, as they prevented them from undertaking roles and activities that they were accustomed to in the past. This super-ordinate theme also highlights the role of the body relative to the self, and describes how the participants’ sense of self was transiently lost during periods when they experienced symptom clusters of high severity. The findings presented also demonstrate the knock-on effect of loss of sense of self experienced, with the participants feeling like they were a burden due to their incapacitation, and at times hiding the multiple symptoms that they were experiencing, in a bid to protect their loved ones from their illness. In light of the loss of sense of self experienced, this super-ordinate theme also demonstrates how the participants employed various strategies in a bid to try and maintain a coherent and valued sense of self. The findings presented illustrate how the use of IPA facilitated the collection of data that provided an in-depth understanding of the complexity of the experience of symptom clusters in patients with advanced lung cancer, adding a unique contribution to this body of knowledge. The results of this study highlight the limitations of definitions that currently underpin the study of symptom clusters in patients with cancer and the current empirical base to date, particularly the way that they do not acknowledge the core role that context and meaning play in the lived experience of this phenomenon. This lack of recognition of these core elements of the patient experience of symptom clusters poses the risk of this body of research producing data that have limited relevance to the patient and therefore clinical practice. It is therefore proposed that the study of symptom clusters in patients with cancer needs to move away from the reductionist approach which currently dominates and to broaden its scope, to one that acknowledges the complexity of the experience of symptom clusters, the core role that context and meaning play in such experiences, and contributions that patient experience can make in advancing this important and emerging body of research.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/3423
Affiliation: School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health

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