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Monica Donovan, Marie Glackin
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 18, Iss. 9, 27 Sep 2012, pp 448 - 455

It is estimated that 60% of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer will receive radiotherapy at some stage in their disease trajectory. The aim of this literature review was to find and analyse papers pertaining to the lived experiences of patients with head and neck cancer receiving radiotherapy. The review identified a limited number of high-quality research papers focusing on this topic, with only 10 papers fitting the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The majority of the investigative studies were not generalisable owing to small sample sizes and many of them being conducted in only one centre. However, the findings do highlight and contribute to the understanding of the lived experiences of this patient group and provide some insight into the unique physical, social, and psychological difficulties they encounter as a result of their treatment. There appears to be a need for further high-level research into these patients, particularly focusing on the provision of support and information prior to, during, and following radiotherapy. Further attention needs to be paid to preparing patients for the slow recovery following radiotherapy. Interventional studies are also required to develop clinical guidelines and protocols that can assist health professionals in meeting the holistic needs of this patient group.

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