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Cancer Nurs. 2009 Sep-Oct;32(5):E17-27. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e3181a5690d.

The experience of uncertainty in young adults with cancer.

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Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton & Cie, 600 De La Gauchetière Street West, Suite 2000, Montreal, Quebec H3B 4L8, Canada.


The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to describe the experience of uncertainty in young adults with cancer. A purposeful sample of 6 young adults between the ages of 19 and 30 years undergoing chemotherapy treatment was recruited. Participants were interviewed twice using semistructured interviews. The investigators used constant comparison to examine the content of the transcript for common words, phrases, statements, or units of text that related to uncertainty. Findings revealed 3 major emerging themes. The first one being "types of uncertainty," which includes uncertainty and efforts at the right place, uncertainty and aspects of treatment, uncertainty and personal abilities, and uncertainty and the feasibility of plans related to life goals. Uncertainty was also found to trigger the development of certainties, which led to the second theme, "certainties: helpful or not?" A third emerging theme, dealing with uncertainty, described a variety of strategies used by young adults that included living on a day-to-day basis, being selfish, believing, getting information, trusting the physician, concentrating on positive things, keeping energy by pacing oneself, choosing social support, and trying to live a normal life. A consequence of dealing with the uncertainty and the cancer journey is the "enlightened path." It emerged and revealed how the cancer journey changed their lives. A number of implications for nursing practice therefore warrant consideration, especially fostering a sense of normalcy by identifying common behaviors, feelings, or needs among these young adults with cancer. Sharing this information and facilitating interactions with other young adults with cancer has the potential to promote coping with uncertainty.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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