Problem Identification: Improvements in pediatric cancer survival have increased interest in the experiences of children undergoing treatment; however, no review of the qualitative literature describing these experiences has been conducted.
Literature Search: Databases were searched from January 2000 to January 2016 for qualitative studies describing the experience of children with cancer aged 18 years or younger.
Data Evaluation: Two reviewers assessed abstracts for relevance and rated reporting comprehensiveness. Participant quotations and descriptions of participants’ comments and behaviors were coded. Coded data were pooled to provide a thematic synthesis.
Synthesis: 51 studies were included. Five themes were identified: suffering because of cancer, fluctuating realities, coping strategies, new roles and responsibilities of the child, and practical resources to enable managing cancer. Children articulated physical, emotional, and social challenges and made suggestions to improve their quality of life during therapy.
Implications for Research: Results provide data related to the experience of children with cancer that can inform practice changes and research activities aimed at enhancing quality of life.