Open Access Open Badges Research article

Experiencing neutropenia: Quality of life interviews with adult cancer patients

Barry V Fortner12*, Kurt W Tauer1, Ted Okon2, Arthur C Houts12 and Lee S Schwartzberg1

Author Affiliations

1 West Clinic, 100 Humphreys Blvd Suite 100, Memphis, TN 38104 USA

2 Supportive Oncology Services and Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network, 1790 Kirby Parkway, Suite 101, Memphis, TN 38138 USA

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BMC Nursing 2005, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-4-4

Published: 8 July 2005



Neutropenia is a common toxicity in chemotherapy but detailed information about how neutropenia is associated with changes in patients' quality of life is not readily available. This prospective study interviewed patients with grade 4 neutropenia to provide qualitative information on patients' experience of developing and coping with grade 4 neutropenia during a cycle of chemotherapy.


A sample of 34 patients who developed grade 4 neutropenia during the first cycle of chemotherapy completed a total of 100 structured clinical interviews. Interviews were transcribed, and 2 raters inductively developed 5 broad categories comprising 80 specific complaint domains nominated by patients. Thirty-five patient-nominated problems were mentioned in 5% or more of the interviews.


Fatigue was the most common physical symptom. Interference in daily routine, negative self-evaluation, negative emotion, and social isolation were other common complaints associated with neutropenia.


Neutropenia is associated with a number of negative experiences among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and these negative experiences have an adverse effect on the patient's quality of life. Oncology nurses can play a key role in helping patients manage adverse effects to maintain their quality of life.