Seeking, accepting and declining help for emotional distress in cancer: A systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative evidence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Many individuals affected by cancer who experience emotional distress report not wanting help. This review aims to understand why individuals affected by cancer seek, accept or decline help for emotional distress and what influences these actions. A systematic review and thematic synthesis of the qualitative literature was conducted. Using pre‐defined search terms, four electronic databases were searched from January 2000 to May 2016. Pre‐determined inclusion and exclusion criteria were then applied. Identified papers were quality appraised. In total, 32 papers were included in the synthesis. Four themes emerged from data synthesis: attaining normality—the normality paradox; being emotionally literate; perceptions of help; needs‐support gap. Attaining normality is ideographic, context dependent and temporally situated; some individuals maintain normality by not seeking/declining help whereas others seek/accept help to achieve a new normality. Thus, attaining normality paradoxically functions to explain both why individuals sought/accepted help or did not seek/declined help. Data indicate that a context dependent, systems thinking approach is merited to enhance psychosocial care. In particular, clinicians must actively explore the personal context of an individual's distress to ensure that help desired and help offered are mutually understood. Further research must address the limitations of the current evidence base to advance theoretical understanding
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017


Cite this