‘It’s not meant to be for life, but it carries on’: a qualitative investigation into the psychosocial needs of young retinoblastoma survivors

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Objective and design Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a rare childhood eye cancer, with 45% of individuals impacted by heritable disease and the remainder impacted non-heritably. The condition can leave survivors with life-long psychological and social challenges. This qualitative study examined the psychosocial needs of teenagers and young adults living beyond Rb.

Setting A qualitative, exploratory study was conducted using focus groups with teenagers and interviews with young adults. Participants were recruited via the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust and the two national Rb treatment centres in the UK. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse data using exploratory and inductive methods.

Participants 32 young survivors of Rb (10 heritable, 21 non-heritable, 1 unknown; 23 unilateral, 9 bilateral) aged between 13 and 29 years (12 male, 20 female).

Results Data were rich and spanned the life course: three key themes were generated, containing eight subthemes. Theme 1 describes participants’ experiences of childhood and trauma, including survivor guilt, memories from treatment and impact on personality. Theme 2 focuses on the challenges of adolescence, including the psychological impact of Rb, the impact on identity, and the sense of normality and adaptation to late effects. The third theme considered adulthood and the development of acceptance, a state of being widely considered unachievable during childhood, as well as the ‘work’ needed to feel supported, including seeking out information, peer support and therapeutic strategies.

Conclusions This study provides in-depth insight into the experiences of life beyond Rb. Findings highlight the need for specific psychosocial interventions informed by codesign.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere082779
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2024

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