The objective of the present study was to use qualitative research to highlight the needs of oral cancer patients and clarify the impact of their condition on social activities. Semi-structured interviews were held with 22 oral cancer patients and analyzed with reference to the grounded theory approach. The recorded oral data were used to identify oral cancer-related issues and impacts, and the feelings of the subjects; codenames indicating the meanings of the data were attached, and those with similar codes were gathered into categories. Additionally, the categories were linked on the basis of conditions, context, behavioral/mutual behavioral strategy, and outcome. The detailed analysis focused on the oral cancer-specific category ‘reduction in social contact due to changes in dietary habits’ and on ‘impact on work,’ which has important relevance to supporting social activities.
In response to the question as to what had been painful or very difficult, frequent reference was made to the impact on dietary habits. In addition to the reduced pleasure in eating, the change in dietary habits had also resulted in reduced social contact and reduced opportunity for social pleasures. By contrast, those who had been able to accept their disability and alter their values were able to concentrate on the value remaining for them, suggesting that psychosocial support in oral cancer survivors can improve quality of life.
Meanwhile, oral cancer survivors of working age experienced a large impact on their work life. Continuing to work appeared to not only provide economic stability, but also the perception of having a role in society, increasing the likelihood of patients feeling a sense of purpose and a reason to live. Providing support in partnership with a medical social worker from immediately after diagnosis to help the patient continue working not only provides economic support during recovery, but is also important in enabling continued social contact and a sense of purpose in life.