The “sphere of care”: A qualitative study of colorectal cancer patient and caregiver experiences of support within the cancer treatment setting

Eleanor Law, Janelle V. Levesque, Sylvie Lambert, Afaf Girgis

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Colorectal cancer is associated with considerable physical and psychosocial burden. Whilst social support is known to facilitate psychological adjustment to cancer, patients’ and caregivers’ experiences of social support within a treatment setting and their perceptions of the role of the treating team in providing this support is unknown. Specifically, there is a gap in the research that explores in detail who people affected by colorectal cancer consider to be supportive, and the function, timing and nature of this support, whilst receiving treatment. This study explored both patients’ and caregivers’ a) experiences of social support and how this relates to their experience of treatment; and b) what facilitates support in the treatment setting. Methods Individual interviews (N = 20) were conducted with patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer and caregivers of such patients. Audiotaped interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using the framework method. Results Three major themes emerged from the data: a) treating team as a source of support, highlighting the importance of connection with the treating team; b) changes in existing social supports, encompassing issues regarding distance in interpersonal relationships as a consequence of cancer; and c) differing dimensions of support, exploring the significance of shared experience, practical, financial, and emotional support. Conclusions Patients and caregivers perceived the treating team as a major source of support. Support from the treating team was particularly important in the context of the changes that occur as a result of a diagnosis of colorectal cancer and the effects of subsequent treatment. Incidental support from others encountered in the treatment setting was also experienced and was equally important to both patients and caregivers. This has implications for the way health care professionals respond to both patients and caregivers in the treatment setting in terms of communication, interventions and environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0209436
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer treatment
  • colorectal cancer
  • finance
  • emotions
  • cancer detection and diagnosis
  • psychological and psychosocial issues
  • qualitative studies
  • social communication

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