The Meaning of Touch to Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2015 Sep;42(5):517-26. doi: 10.1188/15.ONF.517-526.


Purpose/objectives: To explore the experience of being touched in people diagnosed with cancer and undergoing IV chemotherapy.

Research approach: Qualitative, phenomenologic.

Setting: Central New York and northern Pennsylvania, both in the northeastern United States .

Participants: 11 Caucasian, English-speaking adults. .

Methodologic approach: Individual interviews used open-ended questions to explore the meaning of being touched to each participant. Meanings of significant statements, which pertained to the phenomenon under investigation, were formulated hermeneutically. Themes were derived from immersion in the data and extraction of similar and divergent concepts among all interviews, yielding a multidimensional understanding of the meaning of being touched in this sample of participants .

Findings: Participants verbalized awareness of and sensitivity to the regard of others who were touching them, including healthcare providers, family, and friends. Patients do not classify a provider's touch as either task or comfort oriented. Meanings evolved in the context of three primary themes.

Conclusions: The experience of being touched encompasses the quality of presence of providers, family, or friends. For touch to be regarded as positive, patients must be regarded as inherently whole and equal. The quality of how touch is received is secondary to and flows from the relationship established between patient and provider .

Interpretation: This study adds to the literature in its finding that the fundamental quality of the relationship between patient and provider establishes the perceived quality of touch. Previous studies have primarily divided touch into two categories.

Keywords: clinical practice; intention; touch.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Family
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Therapeutic Touch*