Objectives: This article synthesizes the published literature
related to the construct of meaning in the adult cancer population.
Methods: The databases CancerLit, CINAHL, Medline, PsychINFO,
and the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology and PsychoOncology were searched
to identify all studies related to meaning. The methodological aspects of
all studies are described and the conceptual aspects are summarized only
from those studies that met criteria for methodological rigor and validity
of findings. The definitions for global meaning, appraised
meaning, search for meaning, and meaning as outcome
as proposed by Park and Folkman were used to interpret the findings.
Results: Of 44 studies identified, 26 met the criteria for
methodological rigor. There is strong empirical and qualitative evidence
of a relationship between meaning as an outcome of and psychosocial
adjustment to cancer.
Significance of results: The qualitative findings are
considered useful for the development of psychosocial interventions aimed
at helping cancer patients cope with and even derive positive benefit from
their experience. However, variations in the conceptual and operational
definitions, frequent reliance on homogeneous and convenience sampling,
and the lack of experimental designs are considered to be methodological
limitations that need to be addressed to advance the study of meaning in
the context of cancer.