Experiencing and responding to chronic cancer-related fatigue: A meta-ethnography of qualitative research

Tom I Bootsma, Melanie P J Schellekens, Rosalie A M van Woezik, Marije L van der Lee, Jenny Slatman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: One of the most prevalent and disrupting symptoms experienced by cancer patients is chronic cancer-related fatigue (CCRF). A better understanding of the chronic nature of CCRF can provide valuable insights for theory and practice. The purpose of this meta-ethnography was to derive an overarching interpretative narrative on patients' experiences and responses to CCRF.

METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive systematic literature search in five databases (05-03-2018). In addition, papers from reference lists were retrieved. Two researchers independently screened the papers for eligibility and appraised quality (CASP-criteria). We followed the seven phases of meta-ethnography to extract, translate, and synthesise first-order constructs (ie, patients' views) and second-order constructs (ie, authors' views) from the selected studies into third-order constructs (ie, new interpretations).

RESULTS: Of the 1178 collected articles, 16 articles were included. Through synthesis, a new figure of six interrelated third-order constructs was developed: (1) embodied experience entails the dominating presence of the body; (2) (mis)recognition includes lack of recognition of CCRF by patients, relatives, and health providers; (3) small horizon describes a resultant narrowed world; (4) role change encompasses adopting other life roles; (5) loss of self refers to the impact on one's identity; and (6) regaining one's footing describes the struggle against CCRF, adaptation to CCRF and finally acceptance of a "new normal with CCRF."

CONCLUSION: A new embodiment figure of CCRF with social (eg, (mis)recognition), spatial (eg, small horizon) and temporal dimensions (eg, regaining one's footing) was developed. This figure can help professionals to recognise CCRF, inform patients, and personalise treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2019


  • cancer
  • chronic cancer-related fatigue
  • experience
  • meta-ethnography
  • oncology
  • qualitative research


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