Wednesday, 4 February 2015

World Cancer Day 4 February 2015

To mark World Cancer Day we asked Professor Alex Molassiotis, the Angel S.P. Chan Lau Professor in Health and Longevity, Chair Professor of Nursing and Head of the School of Nursing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China and Editor in Chief of the European Journal of Oncology Nursing to select some papers on cancer from JAN and to comment; here is what Alex had to say:

Professor Alex Molassiotis
I first selected two longitudinal studies by Stephens et al. (2014) and McSorley et al. (2014). The study by Stephens et al. comes from Australia and focuses on the experiences of patients with multiple myeloma, an under-researched topic for a rare cancer. Through 47 interviews of ten patients over time it provides a deeper understanding of the patient’ attempts to balance their new reality, their illness demands and the need to continue with a ‘normal’ life. It also shows the emotional labour of living with this illness and the issues shaping their survivorship experience. The unique and complex design of this study deserves a special note, as it allows us to understand the dynamic nature of the illness experience within the same person over time. McSorley et al. studied 149 patients with prostate cancer in Northern Ireland using mixed methods focusing on the assessment of coping strategies used by patients. Several positive coping strategies were identified, used more often in the early stages after diagnosis but less often 6 months or a year later. Only a minority used maladaptive coping. This study also shows that the partners of the patients had unmet needs as well as single patients, suggesting the need for early identification of their needs and intervention as appropriate.

In a feasibility trial by Wu et al. (2014) in children and adolescents with cancer, a psychoeducational intervention, which has shown positive effects in coping and symptom experience in the past in other settings and populations, was tested for acceptability and feasibility in a Taiwanese setting. The intervention was shown to be acceptable and there were significant differences in terms of gastrointestinal symptoms and pain between the experimental and control group. Other symptoms alongside coping were not different between groups, although the small sample size of this under-powered trial may be the reasons.

A systematic review of a Finnish group of researchers Hökkä et al. (2014) adds to the pool of
systematic reviews focusing on managing pain in advanced cancer, using non-pharmacological interventions. Due to problems and limitations in the reviewed studies, no concrete conclusions could be made, although massage, biofeedback with relaxation, physical therapy, or cognitive strategies had some marginal effects. Nevertheless, no statistically nor clinically significant changes of note were observed between experimental and control arms in the trials. There is a need to focus on more rigorous trials with a wider range of non-pharmacological interventions.

From the UK, a qualitative study by Warnock and Tod (2014) focuses on an under-researched topic, that of the patient experience in the presence of spinal cord compression. The significant level of impairment in this patient population and the effects on daily life are described. These data add to our limited understanding of this debilitating and complex condition, not surprisingly with hope and uncertainty being key aspects in shaping this experience. Finally a qualitative study from Australia (Barlow et al. 2014) focuses on early-stage vulvar cancer patients’ experiences. This particular paper focuses on part of the study findings, those related to sexuality and body image. The majority of women had minimal physical symptoms. However, radical vulvar excision, multiple vulvar procedures and/or the development of lymphoedema were all linked with negative emotions and highlight them as risk factors that health professionals could be aware of and assess in these women.

The selected papers will be free to access for 3 weeks.


Barlow EL, Hacker NF, Hussain R, Parmenter G (2014) Sexuality and body image following treatment for early-stage vulvar cancer: a qualitative study Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 1865-1866

Hökkä M, Kaakinen P, Pölkki T (2014) A systematic review: non-pharmacological interventions in treating pain in patients with advanced cancer Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 1954-1969

McSorely O, McCaughan E, Prue G, Parahoo K, Bunting B, O’Sullivan J (2013) A longitudinal study of coping strategies in men receiving radiotherapy and neo-adjuvant androgen deprivation for prostate cancer: a quantitative and qualitative study Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 625-638

Stephens M, McKenzie H, Jordens CFC (2014) The work of living with a rare cancer: multiple myeloma Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 2800-2809

Warnock C, Tod A (2014) A descriptive exploration of the experiences of patients with significant functional impairment following a recent diagnosis of metastatic spinal cord compression Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 564-574

Wu L-M, Chiou S-S, Sheen J-M, Lin P-C, Liao YM, Chen H-M, Hsiao C-C (2013) Evaluating the acceptability and efficacy of a psycho-educational intervention for coping and symptom management by children with cancer: a randomized controlled study Journal of Advanced Nursing 70, 1635-1662

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