Oncologist. 2023 Sep 5:oyad253. doi: 10.1093/oncolo/oyad253. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Few studies examine how patients with advanced cancer cope with stress. The objective of our study was to evaluate coping strategies adopted by patients with cancer and their relationship with symptom burden.
METHODS: A secondary data analysis of a prospective cross-sectional survey of patients with cancer and tobacco use was conducted, which examined demographics, symptom burden (Edmonton Symptom Assessment System), and coping strategies (the Brief COPE Questionnaire). Demographic characteristics were summarized by standard summary statistics; we also examined associations between patient characteristics and coping strategies using t-test, rank-sum test, chi-squared test, or Fisher’s exact test depending on the distribution of data.
RESULTS: Among 399 patients, the majority were female (60%), Caucasian (70%), the mean age was 56.5 (±12.0) years, and the most common malignancies were gastrointestinal (21%) and breast (19%). Patients with cancer adopted multiple adaptive coping strategies, most frequently acceptance (86.7%) and emotional support (79.9%), with humor (18.5%) being the least. Common maladaptive strategies included venting (14.5%) and self-distraction (36.6%), while substance use (1.0%) was infrequently reported. Of the adaptive strategies, female gender was significantly associated with higher engagement with emotional and instrumental support, positive reframing, religious coping, and acceptance (P < .05 for all). College educated patients reported significantly higher implementation of humor, planning, and acceptance. Maladaptive coping strategies such as denial were associated with increased pain and depression, while patients adopting emotional-focused strategies rated decreased emotional distress.
CONCLUSIONS: The majority of patients with advanced cancer reported adopting multiple, adaptive coping strategies, and a minority utilized maladaptive or avoidant strategies, rarely substance use, and may need additional psychological support.