Communication and information: the experience of radiotherapy patients.

Gamble, Karen (1996). Communication and information: the experience of radiotherapy patients. The Open University.



The purpose of this study was to explore patient's own descriptive accounts of their experiences of having cancer and undergoing radiotherapy treatment. The respondents involved were suffering from either cancer of the head and neck region or lung cancer.

The study focused on "information-giving", in particular eliciting data about misconceptions, missing information and valued information. In addition, material which described another, perhaps unconscious level of communication between health professionals and patients was drawn from the interviews.

The methodology employed was of a qualitative nature and predominantly influenced by "grounded theory" (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), where the meanings attached to events are described and explained. However, the "phenomenological" perspective was also influential, in which significance is given to the "lived experience" of the participants (Morse and Johnson, 1991).

The method used to obtain data was "interviewing", via semi-structured, audio-taped interviews. Data gathering was approached by way of obtaining "narrative accounts"or stories from the respondents. Thus, the analysis chapters are arranged in a temporal fashion, representing the beginning, middle and "sense of an ending" to the stories (Sarbin, 1986).

Three underlying themes emerged from the analysis; hope, fear and uncertainty. The study investigated these themes, and explicated the relation of them to various events. For instance, "hope" occurred in relation to treatment and faith in the hospital staff. "Fear" occurred in relation to recurrence of the cancer and death. "Uncertainty" was noted in connection with prognosis and treatment options.

There was also evidence to suggest that health professionals played a role in boosting or decreasing self-esteem (similar to Charmaz, 1983). In particular, this study highlighted that there seemed to be a desire from the cancer sufferers' to obtain a verbal acknowledgement from staff, of the adversity they had overcome.

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