Illness experience in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma: an interpretative phenomenological analysis study

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Feb;24(2):203-8. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e32834ec184.


Aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is common in Asia and has implications for compromised health-related quality of life. We report a qualitative study to explore the impact of HCC on patients' lives and the adjustment process.

Methods: Thirty-three adult patients with HCC in Taiwan (age from 31 to 76 years) took part in a semistructured interview. The interview guide included illness experience, strategies used to deal with the disease, and any significant concerns in their current life. Data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Three main themes were identified. These included: (a) the impact of disease: HCC was associated with physical symptoms and psychosocial stress, as well as positive changes; (b) illness perceptions: patients perceived HCC as a long-term and chronic disease that could not be cured but might be controlled; and (c) coping strategies: these included focusing on managing HCC and its symptoms, emotional responses, and leading a normal life.

Conclusion: Patients' physical condition, their illness perceptions, and coping strategies all contributed to their disease adjustment. Our results suggest that patients in Taiwan are as keen for information about their disease as described in Western cultures. Cross-cultural work is needed to enhance our understanding about how the social or cultural contexts shape individuals coping with cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / psychology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Liver Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Taiwan