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The Experience of Patients With Cancer Who Develop Venous Thromboembolism: An Exploratory Study

Alison Mockler
Brigit O'Brien
Jessica Emed
Gina Ciccotosto
ONF 2012, 39(3), E233-E240 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.E233-E240

Purpose/Objectives: To better understand the experience of venous thromboembolism (VTE) from the points of view of patients with cancer during various stages of the cancer experience.

Research Approach: Qualitative, descriptive.

Setting: Various inpatient and outpatient units of a large urban university-affiliated hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Participants: Purposive sample of 10 participants who were anticipating, had recently undergone, or were currently undergoing cancer treatment and who had received a VTE diagnosis within the past year.

Methodologic Approach: Semistructured interviews were transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis of data revealed themes contributing to understanding the lived experience of VTE during cancer care.

Main Research Variables: The experience of patients with cancer who develop VTE.

Findings: Patients' initial reaction to VTE included VTE as a life-threat, past experience with VTE, and VTE as the "cherry on the sundae" in light of other cancer-related health issues. Patients' coping with VTE also included three themes: VTE being overshadowed by unresolved cancer-related concerns, VTE as a setback in cancer care, and attitudes about VTE treatment.

Conclusions: This study contributes new insight into the experience of patients with cancer who develop VTE. The most salient finding was that patients having no prior VTE knowledge experienced VTE as more challenging. Future studies comparing experiences with VTE across the various stages of cancer care are needed.

Interpretation: Study findings suggest that patient education about VTE would be useful for the initial reaction and subsequent coping phases of VTE, thus representing an important target area for nursing intervention.

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