Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Cancer-Patients-Decision making, Cancer-Patients-Psychology, Terminal care, Social work with the terminally ill, Oncology social workers, Cancer patients, End-of-life care


The purpose of this study is to explore oncology social workers' level of involvement with cancer patients in a hospital setting and the effects this involvement might have on cancer patients' end-of-life care decisions. Ten oncology social workers were recruited through a snowball sampling process. They completed demographic questionnaires and participated in semi-structured interviews. The narrative data was studied for prominent themes using thematic analysis. The findings underscored the importance of early social workers' involvement with cancer patients to provide guidance, support, and address emotional aspects of their cancer experiences. This study also notes that each cancer type follows a different disease and treatment courses that may influence when and how end-of-life issues are being handled. Although most patients seem to have an overall cognitive understanding of their medical conditions, the emotional integration and implications of this understanding might take time to process. Social workers' ability to facilitate communication among patients, families, and the medical team is one of their crucial roles in the interdisciplinary treatment team. Social workers' consistent support, hopeful approach and the on-going discussions with their patients promote understanding and readiness as patients' experiences with their illnesses evolves.




iii, 73 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 64-67)