Aims: There has been a significant increase in qualitative psycho-oncology research documenting the lived experiences of cancer survivors, with a number of systematic reviews recently published. This meta-review (systematic review of systematic reviews) aimed to assess the evidence base, to summarise existing data and identify gaps requiring further research.
Methods: Relevant studies published from 1980-2018 were identified via database searches (Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO). Both qualitative reviews and mixed methods reviews (with at least one qualitative study) were included. Only results pertaining to the qualitative experiences of cancer survivors (post-treatment) were included. Two authors assessed the eligibility and quality of the included articles.
Results: Of the 1001 titles retrieved, 64 reviews were included in the final review. 20 reviews included only qualitative studies, 44 reviews included quantitative and qualitative studies. More than 70% of reviews were published in the last 5 years, reflecting the substantial increase in qualitative psycho-oncology research currently being published. Whilst many reviews included mixed cancer types (24), the majority of reviews included only one cancer type (breast (20), gynaecological (10), prostate (5), haematological (2) colorectal (1), bladder (1), and melanoma (1)). Reviews focused on several specific survivorship areas, with the highest proportion exploring psychological experiences of survivors (QoL, fear of cancer recurrence, psychological needs) (16) and follow-up healthcare (10). Several reviews examined diverse experiences of survivors according to demographic differences such as ethnicity (8), age (3), and rurality (1). Reviews also explored sexuality (7), return to work (7), and cognitive impairment (3) among survivors.
Conclusions: This meta-review provides insight into the areas of research density and paucity. Breast and gynaecological cancer survivors are strongly represented, with few or no reviews for other common cancers (e.g. lung, colorectal, melanoma). Insights from each of the specific survivorship topic areas (e.g. psychological experiences, follow-up healthcare, sexuality) will be discussed.