Coping With Colorectal Cancer: A Qualitative Exploration With Patients and Their Family Members

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Extensive family coping research has been conducted among breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma with lesser emphasis on the coping experiences of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and their family members. Objective.

To examine ways in which patients and their family members cope with the diagnosis of CRC. Methods.

A total of 73 participants (21 patients, 52 family members) from 23 families described their experiences during and after a CRC diagnosis, including their coping experiences with the diagnosis. Data from semi-structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. The data were analyzed utilizing content analysis with inductive coding methods. Results.

Eight major themes were identified: positive reframing, holding on to a sense of normalcy, religion and spirituality, joining a group, creating awareness of CRC, lifestyle change, seeking information and alternative treatments. Maintaining an emotional sense of normalcy through positive thinking, engaging in activities to take one’s mind off the diagnosis and believing that there is a higher authority which has control over the diagnosis and life were vital for the patients and their family members. Patients and family members used similar coping strategies. Conclusion.

Findings from this study have implications for understanding how families blend emotion-based and problem-focused coping strategies in the face of a CRC diagnosis. Further developing evidence-based interventions that target coping and well-being in cancer patients and extending them to family members is necessary and holds great promise for providers who care for patients with familial cancers.