A meta-review of qualitative research on adult cancer survivors: current strengths and evidence gaps

Rebekah Laidsaar-Powell, Stephanie Konings, Nicole Rankin, Bogda Koczwara, Emma Kemp, Carolyn Mazariego, Phyllis Butow

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The number of qualitative studies exploring cancer survivor experiences has significantly increased in recent years, with a large number of systematic reviews now published. This meta-review (systematic review of systematic reviews) aimed to assess the evidence base—summarising existing qualitative findings and identifying gaps for further research. Methods: Systematic reviews published from 1950 to 2018 were identified via database searches (MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO). Two authors assessed eligibility and extracted data. Review quality was assessed using the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for Systematic Reviews. Results: A total of 1465 titles were retrieved, and 60 reviews were included in the final review. All included reviews were conducted between 1998 and 2018. Whilst many reviews included mixed cancer types (21), the majority included only one cancer type (breast (19), gynaecological (10), prostate (5), haematological (2), colorectal (1), bladder (1) and melanoma (1)). Reviews focused on several survivorship topic areas including quality of life, experiences of survivors from ethnic minorities, returning to work and experiences of survivorship healthcare services. Less frequently reviewed topics included fertility, body image, coping strategies and spirituality. Conclusions: This meta-review provides insight into the areas of research density and paucity. Breast and gynaecological cancer survivors are strongly represented. Gaps in synthesis include reviews for other common cancers (e.g. lung, colorectal, melanoma, haematological) as well as survivorship topic areas such as side/late effects, psychological issues, financial toxicity and health behaviours. Implications for Cancer Survivors: Qualitative research into cancer survivor experiences can guide intervention development, as well as provide survivors with insight into the experiences and challenges faced by others with cancer.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)852-889
    Number of pages38
    JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2019


    • Cancer survivors
    • Meta-review
    • Qualitative
    • Systematic review


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