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Exploring the experiences of women living with metastatic breast cancer [MBC]: A systematic review of qualitative evidence

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posted on 2024-01-31, 15:30 authored by Trína Lyons-Rahilly, PAULINE MESKELLPAULINE MESKELL, EILEEN CAREYEILEEN CAREY, Elizabeth Meade, Donal O'Sullivan, Alice Coffey

Purpose Metastatic breast cancer [MBC] is the leading cause of cancer death in women globally with no cure. Women diagnosed with MBC endure a catastrophic upheaval to multiple aspects of their life and a radically transformed future landscape. Evidence suggests that the provision of care for women living with metastatic breast cancer is inadequate, socially isolating and stigmatising. To date, this topic has received little research attention. To increase understanding of the experiences of women living with MBC, a synthesis of current evidence is required. This paper presents a review of qualitative evidence on women’s experiences of MBC. Methods A qualitative evidence synthesis [QES] was conducted to synthesise primary qualitative research on the experiences of women living with MBC. Searches were performed of electronic databases Medline, Medline Ovid, PsycINFO, Psych articles, PubMED, CINAHL Complete, Scopus and grey literature databases. The methodological quality of the included studies was appraised using a modified version of the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme [CASP]. Title, abstract, and full-text screening were undertaken. A ‘best fit’ framework approach using the ARC [Adversity, Restoration, Compatibility] framework was used to guide data extraction and synthesis. Confidence in the findings was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation, Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research [GRADE-CERQual]. Results 28 papers from 21 research studies containing 478 women’s experiences of living with MBC were deemed suitable for inclusion in this qualitative evidence synthesis. Findings are presented in a new conceptual framework RAAW [adapted from ARC] for women living with MBC under themes: Reality, Adversity, Adjustment and Wellbeing. Findings revealed that a diagnosis of MBC impacted every aspect of women’s lives; this is different to a diagnosis of early breast cancer. An overarching theme of lack of support extended across various facets of their lives. A lack of psychological, emotional, and psychosocial support was evident, with a critical finding that models of care were not fit for purpose. Deficits included a lack of information, knowledge, inclusion in shared decision-making and MDT support, specifically the need for palliative care/oncology support access. Some women living with MBC wanted to be identified as having a chronic illness not a life-limiting illness. Culture and socioeconomic standing influenced the availability of various types of support. The impact of treatment and symptoms had an adverse effect on women’s quality of life and affected their ability to adjust. Conclusion This review synthesised the qualitative literature on the experiences of women living with MBC. The ARC framework used in the synthesis was adapted to develop a revised conceptual framework titled RAAW to represent the evidence from this review on experiences for women living with MBC; Reality & Adversity: A diagnosis of MBC; Adjustment: Living with MBC; Wellbeing: Awareness, meaning, engagement [RAAW; MBC]. 



PLoS ONE 19(1): e0296384


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