Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing

: 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 240--241

Précis for living in limbo and speaking legibly: Reporting qualitative description of oral tongue cancer experience

Sarah H Kagan 
 School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Correspondence Address:
Sarah H Kagan
School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

How to cite this article:
Kagan SH. Précis for living in limbo and speaking legibly: Reporting qualitative description of oral tongue cancer experience.Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2015;2:240-241

How to cite this URL:
Kagan SH. Précis for living in limbo and speaking legibly: Reporting qualitative description of oral tongue cancer experience. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Dec 4 ];2:240-241
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Sarah H. Kagan is a gerontological nurse. She holds the Lucy Walker Honorary Term Chair as Professor of Gerontological Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and practices in the Living Well Geriatric Oncology Program at Pennsylvania Hospital. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahHKagan and look for her myths of aging column at

Oral tongue cancer is a diagnosis that, while less common than many solid tumors, reminds us as oncology nurses how critical it is to understand patient experience in order to improve practice. As with many cancers that are less common, the literature addressing patient experience in this diagnosis is limited in several dimensions. As the quantitative evidence expands, demands to improve clinical practice underscore the imperative of qualitative questions describing and interpreting patient experience, meaning, and journey. [1],[2],[3] My colleagues and I embarked on an exploration of oral tongue cancer experience with an aim of developing a grounded theory to explicate the psychological and social processes from diagnosis through treatment and on into survivorship. [4] Our participants shared with us data so rich we were initially overwhelmed.

On reading our first interview transcripts, my project manager Genevieve Philiponis, and I realized that we could - through analysis of the first-hand knowledge our participants imparted in their interviews - describe some of the invisible elements of this cancer experience. We aimed, through qualitative descriptive methods, to address gaps in the clinical literature and thus better enable clinicians to reflect on their approach to patients being treated for tongue cancer. [5] Imagine being told that the seemingly innocuous lesion on your tongue is probably cancer and having to undergo more than one biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. Consider being unable to speak - even though your surgeon says that it is only temporary - as you contemplate continuing to be treated for your tongue cancer with adjuvant radiotherapy, while you worry about family, work, and other responsibilities.

Our participants spoke eloquently of diagnosis and treatment and the effects on daily life. Diagnosis and speech stood out as important dimensions, warranting rigorous description. We were then impelled to conduct partial descriptive analyzes of our grounded theory interview data set in an inductive qualitative descriptive tradition using the constant comparative analysis technique from grounded theory. [4],[6],[7],[8],[9] The results are a pair of papers linked by similar aims and the same methods, set within the context of our main grounded theory study and describing "living in limbo" and "speaking legibly" as part of the overall experience of oral tongue cancer.


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