Chronic diseases such as cancer place a significant burden on individuals, subjecting them to physical and mental distress. Resilience is a dynamic process by which individuals may adapt to these adversities, but little is known about how cancer patients use the term resilience. This review aimed to address the gap by exploring definitions and experiences of resilience as used by cancer patients, and definitions of resilience used in literature in the field of oncology.
A search of four electronic databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SCOPUS and CINAHL) was conducted from database inception to October 2016. Eligible papers were qualitative studies on cancer patients or survivors over the age of 18 which included resilience and cancer (or derivations such as melanoma) in the title, abstract or medical subject headings. Articles were excluded if resilience was not a theme or outcome, or discussed resilience primarily in the context of non-individuals (i.e. families).
Four hundred and seventy non-duplicate citations were screened, resulting in 61 citations being screened for full-text review. Of these, 30 were excluded, leaving 31 studies in the review. Four main thematic categories emerged; coping strategies, social support, spirituality and growth, within which 79 individual resilience themes were identified. Seven definitions of resilience were extracted, while no patient definitions of resilience were identified.
This review found that cancer patients do not use the term resilience directly instead using surrogate terms. Patients describe various coping strategies, social support, growth and spirituality as contributing to resilience.