Patient experiences of acute myeloid leukemia: A qualitative study about diagnosis, illness understanding, and treatment decision-making.
BACKGROUND: Patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) face a unique, difficult situation characterized by sudden changes in health, complex information, and pressure to make quick treatment decisions amid sizeable tradeoffs. Yet, little is known about patients' experiences with AML. We used qualitative methods to learn about their experiences with diagnosis and treatment decision-making to identify areas for improvement. METHODS: We recruited hospitalized patients with AML to participate in semi-structured qualitative interviews about their experiences being diagnosed with AML, receiving information, and making a treatment decision. Interviews were conducted during their hospitalization for induction chemotherapy. We analyzed data by using a constant comparison approach. RESULTS: Thirty-two patients completed an interview. Four main themes emerged: (a) shock and suddenness, (b) difficulty processing information, (c) poor communication, and (d) uncertainty. Patients frequently described their diagnosis as shocking. They also felt that the amount of information was too great and too difficult to process, which negatively impacted their understanding. Patients frequently described a lack of emotional support from clinicians and described uncertainty about their prognosis, the number and nature of available treatments, and what to expect from treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Acute myeloid leukemia poses a sudden, emotionally challenging, information-laden situation, where little time is available to make important decisions. This results in difficulty processing information and is sometimes complicated by a lack of emotive communication from clinicians. Results indicate a need for targeted interventions to improve AML patients' understanding of illness and treatment options and to address their traumatic experiences around diagnosis.
LeBlanc, TW; Fish, LJ; Bloom, CT; El-Jawahri, A; Davis, DM; Locke, SC; Steinhauser, KE; Pollak, KI
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