Positive attitude in cancer: patients' perspectives

Oncol Nurs Forum. May-Jun 2003;30(3):412-6. doi: 10.1188/03.ONF.412-416.


Purpose/objectives: To describe what being positive means for patients undergoing treatment for cancer.

Research approach: Qualitative, descriptive approach.

Setting: Specialist cancer clinic in a large metropolitan hospital in Sydney, Australia.

Participants: 11 patients with cancer currently being treated at a cancer clinic for a variety of cancers.

Methodologic approach: Semistructured interviews that were audiotaped, transcribed, and thematically analyzed for content related to being positive.

Main research variables: Patients' definitions of positive and negative attitude, their perceptions of the importance of attitude during their cancer journey, and any factors that influenced their perceived attitude.

Findings: For patients, positive attitude was defined as optimism for the day and getting though everyday events of the journey by taking control rather than focusing on the future. Factors that affected patients' positive attitude were their relationships with their specialists, people around them being positive and supportive, and having a pleasant environment at home and at the treatment center. Patients found expectations of them to be positive as being detrimental.

Conclusions: Patients with cancer must be positive for the present rather than the future.

Interpretation: Nurses need to inspire and support patients' positivity while undergoing treatment for cancer. Nurses should not force their own value system on them nor treat them differently if they do not conform to societal expectations to be positive and optimistic for the future.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Social Support