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Patients’ Experiences of Preparation for Radiation Therapy: A Qualitative Study

Kristy Forshaw
Alix E. Hall
Allison W. Boyes
Mariko L. Carey
Jarad Martin
ONF 2017, 44(1), E1-E9 DOI: 10.1188/17.ONF.E1-E9

Purpose/Objectives: To explore patients’ experiences of and preferences for preparation for radiation therapy.

Research Approach: Qualitative study.

Participants: 26 individuals who recently received radiation therapy for cancer.

Setting: One Australian radiation oncology clinic located within a tertiary referral hospital in New South Wales.

Methodologic Approach: Semistructured interviews were conducted and analyzed based on a qualitative descriptive approach and content analysis of the transcribed interviews.

Findings: Four main themes related to preparation techniques were identified: (a) psychological preparation (frame of mind, downward comparison, coping mechanisms, and reassurance); (b) information preparation (format, content, and knowledge from patients’ own or others’ experiences); (c) quality of health care; and (d) social support. Two themes related to outcomes of preparation were identified: feeling psychologically prepared and knowing what to expect. Overall, participants’ accounts of preparation for radiation therapy revealed that provision of information was satisfactory. Some participants would have liked more information and support primarily in relation to side effects and the practicalities of what would happen during treatment.

Conclusions: The information gained in this study indicates what strategies may best prepare patients for radiation therapy.

Interpretation: Providing patients with information that creates a realistic expectation of what radiation therapy involves both before and after treatment seems particularly important in helping them feel prepared.

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