Background and objective Patients with cancer taking oral antineoplastic medications may encounter problems including suboptimal adherence as well as physical and psychological disease burden. Despite increase in the use of oncology pharmacy services, there are wide variations between healthcare professionals and patient perceptions of patients’ medication experiences. The objective of the study was to explore the medication experience of taking oral targeted therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Method We purposively sampled advanced stage (stage III or IV) NSCLC patients taking epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) in a medical center in Taiwan. Face-to-face interviews using semi-structured interview guides were conducted. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was applied. A phenomenological methodology was adopted to explore the underlying meaning of patients’ lived experience. Results A total of 19 participants with a mean age of 68.2 years were interviewed. The duration of EGFR-TKIs use ranged from 2 weeks to 5 years. When first learned about the unexpected yet ‘treatable’ cancer, participants expressed strong emotional responses based on their intrinsic beliefs of the terminal disease and therapy. They walked along an unfamiliar trail while confronting physical and psychological challenges and made compromises to treatment. Gaining experiences from cancer journey, patients with cancer continuously seek the ultimate goals–‘return to normal’. Conclusions This study also revealed medication experiences of participants’ journey from seeking information in the initial phase and living with cancer, to taking back control of their own lives. Healthcare professionals could better empathize with patients’ loss of control and understand their perspectives when making clinical decisions. These findings can guide interdisciplinary teams to integrate patients’ beliefs and conduct pre-screening assessments of health literacy levels to tailor communication. Subsequent interventions should be developed to identify barriers to medication self-management and empower patients by building social networks.
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