Treatment Experiences of Women with Reproductive Cancers in Odisha, India: A Qualitative Exploration of Enablers and Barriers

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Director Regional Medical and Research Centre, Chandrasekharpur, Bhubaneswar, Odisha 751023, , India

2 Public Health Foundation of Plot 47, Sector 44 Gurgaon, Haryana 122002, India

3 Indian Institute of Public Health Infocity, Chandrasekharpur, Bhubaneswar, Odisha 751024, India

4 Medical Officer Department of Health and Family Welfare Government of Odisha, India

5 All India Institute of Medical Research Sijua, Bhubaneswar Odisha 751019, India

6 Centre for Population Health Sciences University of Edinburgh EH8 9DX, UK, India


Introduction: Cancer continues to be a major menace to our Indian society notwithstanding significant progress in diagnosis and treatment. In India cancer mortality rates in women are high compared to other countries, despite efforts to improve survival through the development of effective detection techniques and increased numbers of viable treatment options. Indian women’s advanced stage of disease at diagnosis is largely attributable to delay in seeking treatment. The present qualitative inquiry was conducted with the aim of capturing the treatment experiences of patients with gynecology cancer at a tertiary care hospital and understanding the barriers, enablers, stress and apprehension they experience during the treatment phases. Methods: Twenty-one in-depth interviews were conducted with women diagnosed with gynecological cancers and undergoing at least one treatment intervention in the Inpatient Department (IPD). Theme guides were developed with a review of the literature and consultation with experts in the field. Data were collected by trained investigators who were well versed with the local language and analyzed using an inductive approach. Results are presented in the form of core- and sub-themes evolved during this process. Results: Out of the 21 respondents, 19 were married and 2 were widows. Nineteen had attained more than secondary qualifications. Nearly all women described themselves as ‘housewives’. Amongst participants, 13 were diagnosed with breast cancer, 5 with ovarian cancer and 3 with cervical cancer. Thematic framework analysis of the transcripts yielded six key themes: 1) best and worst experiences during the treatment process; 2) financial and emotional stress; 3) care giving and social support; 4) satisfaction with the medical staff; 5) preferences for a female gynecologist and female gynecology ward; and 6) prompt and free treatment. Quotable quotes were presented in the table against every theme. Conclusion: Strengths in the Indian health care delivery system need to be built upon, while attention should be paid to developing effective psychosocial interventions, with a robust financial protection plan for patients and their involvement in decision making. Counselling of patients should be made part of a routine protocol.


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