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Patients' experience of the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer

Winterbottom, Anna; Harcourt, Diana


Anna Winterbottom

Diana Harcourt
Professor in Appearance Research


Purpose. This paper describes the experience of being diagnosed with skin cancer from the perspective of patients. Background. Despite the number of people with newly-diagnosed skin cancer increasing each year, the psychological impact of receiving such a diagnosis has received little attention. Research in this area is sporadic and has predominantly focused on malignant melanoma and used a quantitative approach. Method. Sixteen patients were interviewed about their experiences of being diagnosed with malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. The interview transcripts were analysed using thematic content analysis. Findings. Similar themes for the two non-melanoma forms of skin cancer patients emerged. Information and knowledge of skin cancer appeared as a key theme, and influenced experiences in a variety of different ways. Patients with malignant melanoma recounted similar experiences to those with basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. People with malignant melanoma, however, used a wider variety of strategies in order to cope with the diagnosis. Satisfaction with the care experienced by each of the three groups played a crucial role in minimizing the experience for the patients. Conclusions. Patients with skin cancer should not be conceived as a homogeneous group, but one in which there are a number of diagnoses which differ in prognosis, and so may result in a variety of different consequences and thus experiences for patients.


Winterbottom, A., & Harcourt, D. (2004). Patients' experience of the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 48(3), 226-233.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Nov 1, 2004
Journal Journal of Advanced Nursing
Print ISSN 0309-2402
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 3
Pages 226-233
Keywords nursing, skin cancer, qualitative, malignant melanoma, patients’ experience
Public URL
Publisher URL