Understanding the meaning of the head and neck cancer patients' oral/dental lived experiences

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Mackay, Deanna
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Problem: Treatment for head and neck cancer (HNC) can lead to experiences of intense symptom distress, particularly within the oral cavity and pharynx. Methods: Hermeneutic phenomenology as described by Max van Manen guided this study. 13 participants completed a semi-structured interview. Results: Treatment has a profound and sustained impact. During treatment, eating difficulties, pain, xerostomia, dysphagia, and weight loss were reported. Long-term, eating problems, dysphagia, xerostomia, and dental disease was described. Despite inadequate nutritional intake, a resistance to a feeding tube was expressed. This resistance was influenced by meanings of becoming and living as a cancer patient. The symbolic meaning of food and eating impacted the subjective concepts of self and illness. Conclusion: The participant experiences described suggest that there is a critical need to develop interventions that respond to living with symptoms in HNC. The participant experiences should inform and guide the development of clinical practice and recommendations.
Head and neck cancer, Lived experiences, Hermeneutic phenomenology, Dental