Recovery difficulties post-oropharyngeal cancer radiotherapy hurt psychosocial wellbeing

22 Jul 2022
Recovery difficulties post-oropharyngeal cancer radiotherapy hurt psychosocial wellbeing

Despite favourable prognoses, human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive patients with oropharyngeal cancer who experience unexpected difficulties during recovery after (chemo)radiotherapy suffer from poor psychosocial wellbeing, a recent study has found.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-ethnographic analysis, retrieving a total of 23 papers from the Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, and PsycINFO databases. All included studies were conducted between 2010 and 2021 and were qualitative in nature.

Synthesis analysis revealed five interrelated constructs related to patient psychosocial wellbeing: gaps in continuity of support from healthcare professionals; changes to self-identity; unrealistic expectations of recovery; finding ways to cope; and adjusting to life after treatment.

In particular, completing (chemo)radiotherapy treatment focused the participants’ thoughts and energy on recovery, but the sudden loss of daily contact with healthcare professionals meant that urgent, time-sensitive questions went unanswered, particularly as they relate to treatment side effects. At the same time, high expectations regarding the trajectory of recovery led to disappointment and frustration, especially when patients were faced with the physical difficulties of recovery.

Completing treatment likewise triggered changes to the patients’ self-identities, exacerbated by social stigma and changes in functional capabilities, which often disrupted the previous roles that they could fulfil as parents or partners.

Amid these changes, many participants found it challenging to cope or adjust to life after treatment, often having to turn to peers or family for assistance.

“This meta‐ethnography has highlighted the considerable psychosocial needs of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients during early recovery following (chemo)radiotherapy,” the researchers said.

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