A qualitative study examining the illness narrative master plots of people with head and neck cancer

Kate Reid, Andrew Soundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: There is a need to understand the common plots (master plots) of illness narratives for people who are treated for cancer. Improved insight would enhance therapeutic relationships and help reduce stress for health care professionals (HCPs).
Aim: Identify and refine the most supported narrative master plots, which convey meaning for the tellers’ lived experience from diagnosis to a year post-treatment for a group of Head and Neck Cancer (H&NC) patients.
Method: A purposive sample of individuals with H&NC using a single qualitative interview was undertaken. A narrative analysis was used. 
Results: Eighteen people (57.8 years, six female and 12 male) with H&NC participated. The average time since treatment began was 10 months. Five master plots were identified: (1) The responsive and reflective narrative, (2) The frail narrative, (3) The recovery narrative, (4) The survive or die narrative and (5) The personal project narrative.
Discussion: The identification of narrative master plots of people with H&NC enables HCPs to understand and prepare for the different stories and reactions presented to them. This is important to prevent people’s reactions being labelled in restrictive ways. The implications of recognising the different experiences are discussed further within the manuscript. Research is needed to build on these findings to promote better patient-centred care in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019
EventBAPEN Annual Conference 2019 - ICC, Belfast, Ireland
Duration: 26 Nov 201927 Nov 2019


  • cancer
  • qualitative
  • narrative
  • story
  • patient-centred care


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