Undergoing head and neck cancer surgery: A grounded theory

Elisabetta Losi, Monica Guberti, Luca Ghirotto, Silvia Di Leo, Maria C. Bassi, Stefania Costi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Surgery is the treatment of choice in most head and neck cancers. Very often, the surgery is radical with high impact on the psychosocial, functional and aesthetic fields. The aim of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the patient's, clinician's and key informant's point of view when surgery is proposed, to improve the quality of pathways in terms of patients’ practical, psychological and relational needs. We followed a Grounded Theory approach with semi-structured interviews. Seventeen participants (six patients, nine healthcare professionals and two volunteers) were interviewed immediately before surgery. The study generated a process of “persuading the patient of an obligation” as the core category. The other principal categories that emerged highlighted the patients’ doubts and fears regarding the surgery consequences and, in parallel, strategies employed by the healthcare professionals to rebut hindering issues impeding surgery. In particular, healthcare professionals involved patients in an affiliation process through simplified communication to sustain the choice of surgery; the family plays a supportive role in this process. The interplay between the organisational process and patients’ experience results in “I will let you convince me” at the end of the decision-making process, where the main aim was to save and be saved.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13062
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019


  • decision-making
  • grounded theory
  • head and neck cancer
  • patient participation
  • preoperative care
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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