Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The experience of chronic pain in adult cancer survivors: A qualitative evidence synthesis

Armoogum, Julie; McCabe, Candida; Harcourt, Diana; Foster, Claire; Llewellyn, Alison


Candy McCabe
Professor of Clinical Research and Practice

Claire Foster


There have been significant improvements in cancer survival in recent decades but not everyone is living well. Nearly 40% of cancer survivors have chronic pain, however, little is known about their experiences (1). Those with chronic pain may be cared for across specialities, including primary care, secondary care and specialist pain clinics (2). To enable continuity of care across specialties, and to improve services, it is important to understand the experiences chronic pain in cancer survivors.
To identify, review and synthesise qualitative literature surrounding the experience of chronic pain in adult cancer survivors.
A systematic qualitative evidence synthesis was conducted between October 2017 and February 2018. Studies were included if they explored cancer survivors’ experience of chronic pain and adopted a qualitative methodology. Quality assessment of studies was undertaken using an adapted version of the Critical Appraisal Skill Programme (CASP) Checklist for Qualitative Research (3). Data synthesis followed Thomas and Harden’s (2008) (4) method of thematic synthesis of qualitative research.
Four studies were identified that generated findings from 52 breast cancer survivors. Sample sizes ranged from 8 to 21. The main themes that emerged included the physical impact of pain, pain is not isolation but related to the cancer experience, there are multimodal ways of coping, pain is unexpected then people are left to manage it alone and pain is an emotional experience. Furthermore, there is a temporal nature to chronic pain and cancer survivors’ experience of it.
Chronic pain in cancer survivorship has physical and emotional consequences that are unique to this population. There is limited qualitative research into this area, and what is available is exclusively in the breast cancer population. More research is needed to understand the experience of survivors from different tumour types at various stages of survivorship.


Armoogum, J., McCabe, C., Harcourt, D., Foster, C., & Llewellyn, A. (2018, November). The experience of chronic pain in adult cancer survivors: A qualitative evidence synthesis. Poster presented at UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) Conference, Glasgow, Scotland

Presentation Conference Type Poster
Conference Name UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) Conference
Conference Location Glasgow, Scotland
Start Date Nov 16, 2018
End Date Nov 17, 2018
Acceptance Date Nov 16, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2019
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) Conference 2018, Glasgow, UK.