1Palliative Nexus Group, Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.
Introduction: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) carries significant burden of disease, with high mortality rates and poor prognosis. It is therefore important to consider quality of life (QoL) for patients with HCC. Quantitative research assesses HCC and QoL via standardised measurement tools, but these do not capture the full scope of patient experiences. This review examines the body of qualitative research on this topic, to develop a comprehensive understanding of QoL for this population.
Methods: Medline, EMBASE and PsycINFO were systematically searched with keywords relating to HCC, QoL and patient experience. After applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, key findings of included studies were extracted and analysed for themes.
Results: Eleven studies were included for thematic analysis, with five themes identified as central to QoL: (1) burden of physical symptoms and treatment side effects; (2) psychological impact and coping strategies; (3) social function and stigma; (4) spiritual wellbeing, sense of self and meaning of illness and (5) pervasive uncertainty.
Conclusion: HCC profoundly impacted patients' lives, spanning physical, psychological, social and spiritual QoL domains. While QoL was reduced overall, some features of patient experiences that enhanced QoL were noted. The findings complement data from quantitative studies, helping to build a richer understanding of QoL.