The purpose of this study was to identify common stressful events, how bothersome these events are experienced and which coping strategies postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed primary or recurrent breast cancer used during active treatment to manage these stressful events.
Setting: Two university hospitals and one county hospital in Sweden.
Sample: 131 women who were diagnosed with primary (n=75) or recurrent (n=56) breast cancer.
Methods: The Daily Coping Assessment (DCA) was used to record what coping strategies the women used to handle everyday stressful events. Data were analyzed both qualitative and quantitative.
Main Research variables: Stressful events, the level of bother and coping strategies to handle these stressful events.
Findings:Ten categories of stressful events were identified. There were some significant differences between the groups, and the most frequently experienced events for women with primary cancer were ‘nausea and vomiting’, ‘fatigue’, and ‘other symptoms’. Women with recurrent cancer most frequently experienced ‘other symptoms’, ‘pain’, and ‘distress’. ‘No problem’were recorded by approximately 30% of all diaries. Significant differences in perceived bother between the groups were found for ‘distress’, ‘other concerns’ and’ pain’. Women choose between varieties of (pre-defined) coping strategies for each event, and ‘acceptance’, ‘relaxation’ and ‘distraction’ were the most used in all stages.
Conclusions: Women with recurrent cancer experience more distress and are more troubled by this then woman with primary cancer. All women use various different coping strategies and the women with primary cancer use most numbers of strategies. It is important to routinely assess and recognize not only the frequency of stressful events but also the experience of how bothersome the event is experienced by the patient and what coping strategies the patient uses to manage the stressful event.