Oncology health care professionals' perspectives on the causes of mental health distress in cancer patients

Leeat Granek*, Ora Nakash, Samuel Ariad, Shahar Shapira, Merav A. Ben-David

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore oncologists, social workers, and nurses' perceptions about the causes of their cancer patient's mental health distress. Methods: The grounded theory (GT) method of data collection and analysis was used. Sixty-one oncology health care professionals were interviewed about what they perceived to be the causes of mental health distress in their patients. Analysis involved line-by-line coding and was inductive, with codes and categories emerging from participants' narratives. Results: Oncology health care professionals were sensitive in their perceptions of their patients' distress. The findings were organized into three categories, namely, disease-related factors, social factors, and existential factors. Disease-related themes included side effects of the disease and treatment, loss of bodily functions, and body image concerns as causing patient's mental health distress. Social-related themes included socio-economic stress, loneliness/lack of social support, and family-related distress. Existential themes included dependence/fear of being a burden, death anxiety, and grief and loss. Conclusions: Oncology health care professionals were able to name a wide range of causes of mental health distress in their patients. These findings highlight the need to have explicit conversations with patients about their mental status and to explore their understanding of their suffering. A patient-centered approach that values the patient's conceptualization of their problem and their narrative to understanding their illness can improve the patient-provider relationship and facilitate discussions about patient-centered treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1695-1701
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


FundersFunder number
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


    • cancer
    • grounded theory
    • mental health distress
    • nurses
    • oncologists
    • oncology
    • qualitative methods
    • social workers


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