• 1 School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
  • 2 Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia, Johor, Malaysia
  • 3 Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University Centre for Cancer, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Support Care Cancer, 2021 Nov;29(11):7013-7027.
PMID: 34018030 DOI: 10.1007/s00520-021-06253-2


PURPOSE: Interest is growing in post-traumatic growth (PTG) after cancer prompted, in part, by observations of positive associations with health-related quality of life. Qualitative research provides valuable insight into survivors' experiences. We conducted a scoping review of qualitative evidence on PTG in cancer, determining the number, nature, range and scope of studies, and gaps in the literature.

METHODS: We systematically searched Medline, Scopus, CINAHL, Web of Science, and PsycINFO for qualitative research exploring positive changes after cancer published from 1996. From eligible studies, we extracted: terms used for PTG; design, methodological orientation, and techniques, and participant characteristics. Using descriptive mapping, we explored whether study findings fit within Tedeschi and Calhoun's PTG framework, and evidence for unique positive changes post-cancer.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight studies were eligible. Cancer sites included were: breast, 14; mixed, 6; haematological, 4; head and neck cancer, 2; bone, 1, and testis, 1. Multiple studies were conducted in: the USA (12), Australia (3), Iran (2), and the UK (2). Twenty-three studies collected data using individual interviews (21) or focus groups (2). Definitions of PTG varied. Studies largely focused on descriptive accounts of PTG. Findings mapped onto existing PTG dimensions; health behaviour changes were often reported, under 'new possibilities'.

CONCLUSIONS: A range of PTG outcomes can occur after cancer. Positive health behaviour changes warrant further exploration. Future research should include more diverse patient populations, collect longitudinal data, and focus on pathways towards positive changes.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.