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Experiential Avoidance in Advanced Cancer: a Mixed-Methods Systematic Review

Davis, Sarah; Serfaty, Marc; Low, Joe; Armstrong, Megan; Kupeli, Nuriye; Lanceley, Anne; (2022) Experiential Avoidance in Advanced Cancer: a Mixed-Methods Systematic Review. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 10.1007/s12529-022-10131-4. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: People with advanced cancer experience psychological distress due to physical symptoms, functional decline, and a limited prognosis. Difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions may exacerbate distress and lead to avoidance of these experiences which is sometimes referred to as experiential avoidance (EA). Advanced cancer patients may be more likely to engage in EA especially when no obvious solutions to their problems exist. This study aims to examine the terms used to describe EA, the processes that might indicate EA, associations between EA and psychological distress, and to understand why individuals might engage in EA. METHODS: A mixed-methods review. Literature search of Medline, Embase, Psych INFO, and CINAHL 1980-October 2019. INCLUSION: adults ≥ 18 years; advanced cancer not amenable to cure. EXCLUSION: no measures of EA or psychological distress. Risk of bias and study quality assessed. Evidence of statistical techniques collected. Themes coded, grouped, and developed based on meaning. RESULTS: Nineteen studies identified, 13 quantitative studies and 6 qualitative. The quantitative of which 6 compared early-stage cancers with advanced cancers and examined subscales of EA alongside mood, quality of life, and psychological distress. EA covers a range or terms of which 'avoidant coping' is the commonest. EA is manifest as cognitive, behavioural, and emotional avoidance. A thematic synthesis suggests the function of EA is to protect people from distress, and from confronting or expressing difficult emotions by avoiding communication about cancer, controlling negative information, and maintaining normality and hope and optimism. CONCLUSIONS: EA may be beneficial in the short term to alleviate distress, but in the longer term, it can impair function and limit engagement in life. Greater clinical awareness of the complexity of EA behaviours is needed. Clinicians and researchers should define EA precisely and be aware of the function it may serve in the short and longer term. Future research studies may consider using specific measures of EA as a primary outcome, to assess the impact of psychological interventions such as ACT.

Type: Article
Title: Experiential Avoidance in Advanced Cancer: a Mixed-Methods Systematic Review
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s12529-022-10131-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-022-10131-4
Language: English
Additional information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Advanced cancer, Experiential avoidance, Mixed methods, Psycho-oncology, Systematic review
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Primary Care and Population Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry > Marie Curie Palliative Care
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10158404
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