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.