Broderick, Fiona Elizabeth (2015). Exploring the traumatic impact of advanced cancer. Doctoral thesis (Clinical Psychology), Staffordshire and Keele Universities (UK). (Link:

Abstract: People living with cancer can experience psychological distress and a sense of personal development. These two responses can be conceptualised within theories of post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG), respectively. While much research has been conducted in the area of ‘cancer and trauma’, there have been relatively fewer studies on individuals with advanced cancer (AC). Objective: This exploratory study investigated the range of experiences of people living with AC and of partners of this group, and considered how theories of PTS and PTG resonated with their accounts. Design: Q-methodology, a technique which combines quantitative and qualitative analysis, was used to examine the participants’ subjective experiences. Method: This study was conducted in a hospice setting and used strategic sampling (n=11), gathering data from 8 individuals living with AC and from 3 individuals caring for someone with this diagnosis. Participants rated a set of 62 statements, informed by trauma theories, based on the extent to which these statements resonated with their own personal experience of living with AC, or caring for someone with this illness. The participants were then interviewed about their statement rankings. Analysis: The Q-sort data were subjected to Q-factor analysis. Theories of PTS and PTG were used to aid the interpretation of four differing viewpoints; ‘Fearful yet Adapting’, ‘Accepting and Growing, ‘Resigned and Grieving’ and ‘Traumatised’. The analysis revealed a variety of positive and negative consequences of living with AC. Implications: The findings are of use in clinical practice, as they provide both quantitative and qualitative information on the distress and positive changes experienced in response to AC.