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“Take the tablet or don’t take the tablet?”—A qualitative study of patients’ experiences of self-administering anti-cancer medications related to adherence and managing side effects

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posted on 2024-04-19, 03:29 authored by Thu Ha DangThu Ha Dang, C O’Callaghan, Marliese Alexander, K Burbury, PP Jayaraman, Nilmini WickramasingheNilmini Wickramasinghe, P Schofield
Purpose: Medication non-adherence is a well-recognised problem in cancer care, negatively impacting health outcomes and healthcare resources. Patient-related factors influencing medication adherence (MA) are complicated and interrelated. There is a need for qualitative research to better understand their underlying interaction processes and patients’ needs to facilitate the development of effective patient-tailored complex interventions. This study aimed to explore experiences, perceptions, and needs relating to MA and side effect management of patients who are self-administering anti-cancer treatment. Methods: Semi-structured audio-recorded interviews with patients who have haematological cancer were conducted. A comparative, iterative, and predominantly inductive thematic analysis approach was employed. Results: Twenty-five patients from a specialist cancer hospital were interviewed. While self-administering cancer medications at home, patients’ motivation to adhere was affected by cancer-related physical reactions, fears, cancer literacy and beliefs, and healthcare professional (HCP) and informal support. Patients desired need for regular follow-ups from respectful, encouraging, informative, responsive, and consistent HCPs as part of routine care. Motivated patients can develop high adherence and side effect self-management over time, especially when being supported by HCPs and informal networks. Conclusion: Patients with cancer need varied support to medically adhere to and manage side effects at home. HCPs should adapt their practices to meet the patients’ expectations to further support them during treatment. We propose a multi-dimensional and technology- and theory-based intervention, which incorporates regular HCP consultations providing tailored education and support to facilitate and maintain patient MA and side effect self-management.


This publication is financially supported by the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC), Swinburne University of Technology, and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (project DHCRC-0043). DHCRC is funded under the Commonwealth’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program. THD is supported by the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. The sponsor had no influence on the study design or the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. The final decision to include the comments and submit the manuscript for publication was made only by the authors.


Publication Date



Supportive Care in Cancer





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Springer Nature



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