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Post-traumatic growth after cancer: a scoping review of qualitative research

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fiona MengerORCiD, Ben RimmerORCiD, Professor Linda Sharp



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


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 & 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, 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. Implications for Cancer Survivors These findings strengthen the evidence-base towards interventions to promote PTG and improve survivors’ health-related quality-of-life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Menger F, Mohamed Halim NA, Rimmer B, Sharp L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Supportive Care in Cancer

Year: 2021

Volume: 29

Pages: 7013-7027

Print publication date: 01/11/2021

Online publication date: 20/05/2021

Acceptance date: 26/04/2021

Date deposited: 21/05/2021

ISSN (print): 0941-4355

ISSN (electronic): 1433-7339

Publisher: Springer Nature


DOI: 10.1007/s00520-021-06253-2


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Funder referenceFunder name
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Charity (BH172327)