Understanding the experiences of adolescents and young adults with cancer: a meta-synthesis
Purpose To conduct a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies exploring experiences of young cancer patients to identify the overarching concepts that inform future service and research directions. Method A systematic literature search was conducted, and 51 articles published between January 2004 and March 2014 were collected via CINAHL, Medline and PsycINFO databases. Deductive thematic analysis was conducted to identify major themes, guided by Hermeneutic notions on interpretation. Results Cancer impacted a wide range of life domains. These impacts were interconnected and bi-directional. The meanings of these impacts were closely related to their unique developmental needs and a social position as youth. Emotional struggles during these radical changes were evident, but efforts to make sense of their experiences and find meaning pervaded. Conclusions Given the interrelated nature of the cancer challenges young cancer patients experience, there needs to be an emphasis on conducting studies which further refine our understanding of these relationships. This can help to structure effective youth cancer services. Generic informational resources and support services should be tailored so that they have relevance to the young person's life context. The treating team has an important role in fostering young patients' ability to make sense of their experiences by providing developmentally-relevant psychosocial support.