Evid Based Nurs 2:94 doi:10.1136/ebn.2.3.94
  • Qualitative

Patient distress after radiotherapy to the head and neck was often hidden

 Question What are the experiences of patients with head and neck cancer during the month after completion of radiotherapy?


Naturalistic inquiry.


Oxford, UK.


12 patients who received radical radiotherapy to squamous cell cancers in the head and neck area during a 4 month period.


After patients completed a course of radiotherapy, they were given diaries to record important events and feelings. Approximately 1 month after the completion of radiotherapy, indepth interviews were held in patients' homes. At the end of the interviews, patients were presented with a series of symptom cards. These were intended to prompt patient discussion of symptoms that might not have been addressed and provide opportunities for discussion of sensitive topics (eg, problems with kissing).

Main findings

The distress experienced by patients during the month after radiotherapy was often hidden. Patients downplayed their experience, and many showed resignation or acceptance of the cancer (eg, “that's how life goes”). They tried to convince themselves that things were really all right, often comparing …

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