Date of Award

Spring 1992

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Shaw, Christine

Second Advisor

Wilson, Sarah

Third Advisor

Rapp, Cathy


Pain, a frequently occurring component of the cancer experience, is known to have an effect on quality of life. In previous studies of quality of life, pain was usually listed as an item in a symptom distress scale. As such, the impact of pain on quality of life is assigned a numerical score. The purpose of this study was to examine the meaning of the relationship of pain and quality of life from the perspective of the individual experiencing pain. A qualitative design using a grounded theory approach was utilized in this study. A semi-structured interview with open ended questions was conducted by a single investigator in the inpatient oncology unit of a large mid-western hospital and in individual respondent's homes. Study respondents were persons with cancer who gave a self report of pain, as expressed by the word descriptors of "mild" , "moderate" , or "severe". The sample size of six included as many subjects as were needed to saturate categories or discover repetitive themes. Data collection and analysis was done simultaneously. Grounded theory methods of data analysis were utilized. Open codes were derived from idea units. The investigator developed a conceptual framework incorporating pain and quality of life. The literature was reviewed during the data analysis process and previous research was examined in relation to the present study. Three main concepts evolved from this study : the engulfing pain, profound loss, and fighting the pain. The cancer pain experience has been shown to engulf the study respondents, resulting in dramatic and profound losses in the areas of relationships with family and friends, everyday activities and work roles, and activities that gave pleasure and meaning to life. The pain experience has resulted in varying efforts on the part of the respondents to fight and challenge the pain . Some respondents demonstrated success in their fight against the pain, while others clearly appeared to be losing their struggle and have given up the fight. The overall result of this process and experience has been to have a negative impact on the quality of life of these respondents. Loss of control over one's life was an important facet of this negative impact of pain on respondents' quality of life. Each respondent's life was dramatically altered by their pain experience, and the impact on each was negative and detrimental. These findings contribute to the knowledge base in quality of life and its relationship with pain. Research is recommended to further study the relationship of pain and quality of life.