Living with and beyond cancer with comorbid illness: a qualitative systematic review and evidence synthesis

Debbie Cavers, Liset Habets, Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Eila Watson, Elspeth Banks, Christine Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

PURPOSE: To identify the qualitative evidence on the experience of cancer and comorbid illness from the perspective of patients, carers and health care professionals to identify psycho-social support needs, experience of health care, and to highlight areas where more research is needed.

METHODS: A qualitative systematic review following PRISMA guidance. Relevant research databases were searched using an exhaustive list of search terms. Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts and discussed variations. Included articles were subject to quality appraisal before data extraction of article characteristics and findings. Thomas and Harden's thematic synthesis of extracted findings was undertaken.

RESULTS: Thirty-one articles were included in the review, covering a range of cancer types and comorbid conditions; with varying time since cancer diagnosis and apparent severity of disease for both cancer and other conditions. The majority of studies were published after 2010 and in high income countries. Few studies focused exclusively on the experience of living with comorbid conditions alongside cancer; such that evidence was limited. Key themes identified included the interaction between cancer and comorbid conditions, symptom experience, illness identities and ageing, self-management and the role of primary and secondary care.

CONCLUSIONS: In addition to a better understanding of the complex experience of cancer and comorbidity, the review will combine with research prioritisation work with consumers to inform an interview study with the defined patient group.

IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: Expanding this evidence base will help to illuminate developing models of cancer patient-centred follow-up care for the large proportion of patients with comorbid conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-159
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Comorbidity
  • Systematic review
  • Qualitative
  • Supportive care
  • Cancer experience
  • Survivorship care


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