Experiencing neutropenia: quality of life interviews with adult cancer patients

BMC Nurs. 2005 Jul 8;4:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-6955-4-4.


Background: Neutropenia is a common toxicity in chemotherapy but detailed information about how neutropenia is associated with changes in patients' quality of life is not readily available. This prospective study interviewed patients with grade 4 neutropenia to provide qualitative information on patients' experience of developing and coping with grade 4 neutropenia during a cycle of chemotherapy.

Methods: A sample of 34 patients who developed grade 4 neutropenia during the first cycle of chemotherapy completed a total of 100 structured clinical interviews. Interviews were transcribed, and 2 raters inductively developed 5 broad categories comprising 80 specific complaint domains nominated by patients. Thirty-five patient-nominated problems were mentioned in 5% or more of the interviews.

Results: Fatigue was the most common physical symptom. Interference in daily routine, negative self-evaluation, negative emotion, and social isolation were other common complaints associated with neutropenia.

Conclusion: Neutropenia is associated with a number of negative experiences among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and these negative experiences have an adverse effect on the patient's quality of life. Oncology nurses can play a key role in helping patients manage adverse effects to maintain their quality of life.