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Vulnerable persons in a vulnerable position: exploring cancer patients’ lived experiences of life-limiting illness

Isabella Elise Pedersen, Regner Birkelund


Background aims and objectives: Studies show an inequality in the support and outcomes for patients with life-limiting illness and social vulnerabilities. To understand the nature of this inequality and improve the healthcare of these patients, an understanding of their lived experience is necessary. The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of life-limiting illness in socially vulnerable patients.

Methods: This study is based on qualitative interviews of 8 patients in palliative care with life-limiting cancer and one or more social vulnerabilities. The interviews were conducted from January 2018 to March 2018 in accordance with Kvale and Brinkmann’s semi-structured life-world interview and afterwards read, analysed and interpreted through a phenomenological-hermeneutic design in accordance with Ricoeur’s theory of interpretation.

Results: From the analysis and interpretation of the patients’s experiences, 3 themes arose: (1) Finding comfort in social relations, (2) Being limited in the everyday life and  (3) Meeting a system of boxes.

Conclusion: On the basis of the themes, it is concluded that socially vulnerable patients have little to no social network and need support from social relations. It can also be concluded that socially vulnerable patients struggle with physical changes in their daily living and are in need of help to maintain their everyday life with illness. Furthermore, these patients feel marginalized in a healthcare system when they do not fit within the margins of a patient’s role.


Activities of daily living, cancer patients, inequality, lived experience, palliative care, patient activation, patient experience, patient public involvement, patient rehabilitation, person-centered healthcare, phenomenology, psychosocial and spiritual c

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