Qualitative study on perceived dignity of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in China

  • Jinnan Xiao
  • Ka Ming Chow
  • Carmen WH ChanEmail author
  • Minjie Li
  • Ying Deng
Original Article



Safeguarding the perceived dignity of cancer patients has been recently attracting attention, but its development is constrained by the ambiguous construct of dignity. This study aims to describe the perceived dignity of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy on the basis of the dignity model and to provide insights into the promotion of dignity-conserving care in China.


A qualitative descriptive design was conducted with face-to-face, semi-structured, and individual interviews. Consecutive sampling of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in a public hospital was conducted. Semi-structured interviews were performed by a registered nurse with experience in palliative care research. Data were analysed using the framework method with inductive and deductive approaches.


Twenty patients aged 28–70 years old completed the interviews. Perceived dignity themes were classified into three categories, namely illness-related concerns, dignity-conserving repertoire, and social dignity inventory. In comparison with the dignity model, social dignity inventory had two added themes: communication openness and financial burden. These themes affect the perceived dignity of Chinese patients.


The perceived dignity of patients can be affected by various issues, including illness, personal attitudes and practices and social environments. Culture and economics considerably affect the construct of dignity among the Chinese population. Family-oriented approaches are recommended to create an environment where patients feel valued, respected and supported. This method will help cancer patients adapt to the changes brought on by their illness and maintain dignity.


Cancer Chemotherapy Dignity Qualitative study Chinese 



We wish to acknowledge the patients who shared their experiences and stories, as well as the health care professionals who assisted with the selection of the participants.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (University Survey and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee: SBREC 105-18) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Nethersole School of NursingThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Hunan Cancer Hospital and The Affiliated Cancer Hospital of Xiangya School of MedicineCentral South UniversityChangshaChina

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