Making sense of brain tumour: A qualitative investigation of personal and social processes of adjustment

T. Ownsworth, S. Chambers, A. Hawkes, D.G. Walker, Ho Keung David Shum

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated personal and social processes of adjustment at different stages of illness for individuals with brain tumour. A purposive sample of 18 participants with mixed tumour types (9 benign and 9 malignant) and 15 family caregivers was recruited from a neurosurgical practice and a brain tumour support service. In-depth semi-structured interviews focused on participants' perceptions of their adjustment, including personal appraisals, coping and social support since their brain tumour diagnosis. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically using open, axial and selective coding techniques. The primary theme that emerged from the analysis entailed key sense making appraisals, which was closely related to the following secondary themes: (1) Interactions with those in the healthcare system, (2) reactions and support from the personal support network, and (3) a diversity of coping efforts. Adjustment to brain tumour involved a series of appraisals about the illness that were influenced by interactions with those in the healthcare system, reactions and support from people in their support network, and personal coping efforts. Overall, the findings indicate that adjustment to brain tumour is highly individualistic; however, some common personal and social processes are evident in how people make sense of and adapt to the illness over time. A preliminary framework of adjustment based on the present findings and its clinical relevance are discussed. In particular, it is important for health professionals to seek to understand and support individuals' sense-making processes following diagnosis of brain tumour. © 2010 Psychology Press, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-137
Number of pages21
JournalNeuropsychological Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjustment
  • Brain tumour
  • Coping
  • Sense-making
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology

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