Lived experience of people with thyroid cancer and factors that affect it: a phenomenology study

Rogusz, Alicja Elzbieta (2022) Lived experience of people with thyroid cancer and factors that affect it: a phenomenology study. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Thyroid cancer is the most common thyroid neoplasia. It is a comparatively uncommon and low-mortality cancer. However, it is predicted that its prevalence will rise by 74% in the UK by 2035. The literature suggests that the psychosocial quality of life of patients can be negatively affected by thyroid cancer (Sawka et al., 2009; Jeong et al., 2015; Vega-Vasquez et al., 2015), although there is little explanation of the reasons for this. Existing studies are mainly quantitative and do not thoroughly explore the factors that impact people's experiences.


This is a qualitative phenomenological study looking at the lived experience of patients during and after their treatment for well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Twenty-five thyroid cancer patients, within four years of diagnosis, were recruited from the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital, and from the charity Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. Eight patients were interviewed within eight weeks of diagnosis and were followed throughout their treatment journey. The remaining 17 participants were interviewed retrospectively about the diagnosis, treatment and recovery from thyroid cancer. The primary data collection method was semi-structured in-depth interviews. All interviews were recorded and translated verbatim. They were then coded using NVivo and analysed with descriptive phenomenological analysis.


The diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer affect many aspects of patient’s lives. Their psychological health, physical health, relationships, employment, and finances can be impaired. The exploration of hospital care and treatment yielded many important insights into the lived experiences of patients. Participants in this study had both positive and negative experiences of care and treatment. Factors that made the experience positive were compassionate and professional care from health care professionals, as well as having manageable physical side effects after surgery and during recovery. The opposite can impact the experience in a negative way. Isolation and loneliness can be major difficulties at many stages of treatment, particularly when being treated with radioactive iodine. Information provision is vital, but there were gaps in information that were identified by participants. These included possible long-term symptoms of treatment, practical information about levothyroxine and information about psychological support. Anxiety and fear were widespread among participants.


The unmet needs for information and support identified by this study could be effectively met if each centre providing care for thyroid cancer patients had a Thyroid Cancer Nurse Specialist or a named key worker for patients. This person would be in a good position to fulfil most information and support needs and to make referrals to specialist services such as psychological therapies, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and other public sector or charitable services.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: experience of cancer, quality of life, neck cancer, life of oncology patients, patients’ perspective
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2022 09:20
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2022 09:30

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