Living with the late effects of cervical cancer treatment: a descriptive qualitative study at an academic hospital in Gauteng

  • Sophia N Ntinga Cancer Diseases Hospital
  • Johanna E Maree University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: cervical cancer, cervical cancer treatment, late effects, experiences, South Africa


Objective: The late effects of cervical cancer and its treatment are well known. However, qualitative research describing how women experience these effects seems to be unavailable. The purpose of our study was to describe how women experienced the late effects of cervical cancer treatment. Design: A qualitative descriptive design was used. Subjects and setting: Purposive sampling was employed to select the participants treated at an academic hospital in Gauteng. Sixteen in-depth interviews were conducted. Data saturation determined the sample size. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results: The average age of the sample was 44.1 years, and half of the participants had stage IIB cancer. Most were treated with external beam radiation in combination with brachytherapy. Five themes arose from the data, namely experiencing the physical consequences of the treatment, struggling with the socio-economic implications of the treatment, living with the sexual consequences of the treatment, spiritual issues relating to cervical cancer and facing health system challenges. Conclusion: The late effects deriving from cervical cancer treatment deprived women of the lives they lived before they were treated for cervical cancer. They were burdened with physical changes which aggravated their already difficult financial situation, and they had to live with unattended healthcare needs. Sexual dysfunction changed their intimate partner relationships, leading to anxiety about the possible loss of their life partners. Despite all this, they were positive about their future owing to their faith. Nurses should assess patients for the late effects of cervical cancer and implement interventions to meet their individual needs.

Author Biographies

Sophia N Ntinga, Cancer Diseases Hospital
RN, BTech Nursing Oncology, MSc Nursing Oncology & Palliative Care Oncology Nurse Nursing Department Cancer Diseases Hospital Lusaka Zambia
Johanna E Maree, University of the Witwatersrand
DCur Associate Professor and Head Department of Nursing Education Faculty of Health Sciences University of the Witwatersrand
Original Research