Objectives: To explore the experiences of patients receiving oral anticancer agents. Design: A qualitative study using semistructured interviews with a grounded theory approach. Setting: A university hospital in Japan. Participants: 14 patients with gastric cancer who managed their cancer with oral anticancer agents. Results: Patients with cancer experienced inner conflict between rational belief and emotional resistance to taking medication due to confrontation with cancer, doubt regarding efficacy and concerns over potential harm attached to use of the agent. Although they perceived themselves as being adherent to medication, they reported partial non-adherent behaviours. The patients reassessed their lives through the experience of inner conflict and, ultimately, they recognised their role in medication therapy. Conclusions: Patients with cancer experienced inner conflict, in which considerable emotional resistance to taking their medication affected their occasional non-adherent behaviours. In patient-centred care, it is imperative that healthcare providers understand patients' inner conflict and inconsistency between their subjective view and behaviour to support patient adherence.
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