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