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When cancer cannot be cured: A qualitative study on relationship changes in couples facing advanced melanoma


Drabe, Natalie; Jenewein, Josef; Weidt, Steffi; Engeli, Lucia; Meier, Caroline; Büchi, Stefan; Schad, Karin; Schönbucher, Verena; Canella, Claudia; Garcia Nuñez, David (2016). When cancer cannot be cured: A qualitative study on relationship changes in couples facing advanced melanoma. Palliative & Supportive Care, 14(06):652-663.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this qualitative study was to gain a deeper understanding about couples' relationship changes over time (the first six months) after one partner is diagnosed with an incurable advanced melanoma (stage III or IV). METHOD: In semistructured interviews, eight patients and their partners were asked separately about potential changes in their relationship since diagnosis. The same questions were asked again six months later, but focusing on relationship changes over the preceding six months. Some 32 audiotaped interviews were analyzed applying qualitative content analysis. RESULTS: At baseline (t1), relationship changes were mostly reported in terms of caring, closeness/distance regulation, and communication patterns. While changes in caregiving and distance/closeness regulation remained main issues at six months follow-up (t2), greater appreciation of the relationship and limitations in terms of planning spare time also emerged as major issues. Unexpectedly, 50% of patients and partners reported actively hiding their negative emotions and sorrows from their counterparts to spare them worry. Furthermore, qualitative content analysis revealed relationship changes even in those patients and partners who primarily reported no changes over the course of the disease. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Our findings revealed a differentiated and complex picture about relationship changes over time, which also might aid in the development of support programs for couples dealing with advanced cancer, focusing on the aspects of caring, closeness/distance regulation, and communication patterns.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this qualitative study was to gain a deeper understanding about couples' relationship changes over time (the first six months) after one partner is diagnosed with an incurable advanced melanoma (stage III or IV). METHOD: In semistructured interviews, eight patients and their partners were asked separately about potential changes in their relationship since diagnosis. The same questions were asked again six months later, but focusing on relationship changes over the preceding six months. Some 32 audiotaped interviews were analyzed applying qualitative content analysis. RESULTS: At baseline (t1), relationship changes were mostly reported in terms of caring, closeness/distance regulation, and communication patterns. While changes in caregiving and distance/closeness regulation remained main issues at six months follow-up (t2), greater appreciation of the relationship and limitations in terms of planning spare time also emerged as major issues. Unexpectedly, 50% of patients and partners reported actively hiding their negative emotions and sorrows from their counterparts to spare them worry. Furthermore, qualitative content analysis revealed relationship changes even in those patients and partners who primarily reported no changes over the course of the disease. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Our findings revealed a differentiated and complex picture about relationship changes over time, which also might aid in the development of support programs for couples dealing with advanced cancer, focusing on the aspects of caring, closeness/distance regulation, and communication patterns.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Institute of Complementary Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Klinik für Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:12 Dec 2016 09:26
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 10:59
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:1478-9515
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/S1478951516000055
PubMed ID:26975832

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