A high degree of uncertainty was observed in a study of patients with hematologic malignancies scheduled to undergo hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). The findings from this study were published in Cancer Nursing.

Previous studies have identified high levels of uncertainty, defined in this study as “the inability to give sense or meaning to the processes or situations that have to do with medical conditions,” in specific populations of patients with cancer. However, no previous studies have focused on patients with hematologic cancers who are about to undergo HCT.

“Studying uncertainty as a phenomenon experienced by patients of hematologic cancer who are going to undergo HCT is highly important because of the physical and psychological effects that it can cause and the lack of literature on the behavior of individuals in the presence of said phenomenon,” the study authors noted.

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This observational study included 50 adult patients with hematologic cancers who were admitted to a single hospital between October 2017 and March 2018 in preparation for HCT. Uncertainty was measured using the Mishel’s Uncertainty in Illness Scale, which had previously been validated in the setting of breast cancer. Other psychosocial variables, such as quality of life, were not measured in this study.

The mean age of patients enrolled in this study was 44.8 years; and it included 24 (48%) patients with multiple myeloma, 8 (16%) patients with lymphoma, and 18 (36%) patients with leukemia.

A key finding from this study was a high degree of uncertainty in approximately three-quarters of study patients. Factors associated with uncertainty in these patients included a family history of cancer, lower educational level, and prior radiotherapy.

The study authors concluded that an understanding of the factors that increase the level of uncertainty among patients scheduled to undergo HSCT can facilitate the implementation of nursing educational interventions “to diminish the negative effects produced by uncertainty.”


Adarve SE, Osorio JH. Factors associated with uncertainty in patients scheduled to undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Cancer Nurs. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000773

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor