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Psychooncology. 2012 Apr;21(4):400-8. doi: 10.1002/pon.1912. Epub 2011 Jan 23.

'The greatest thing in the world is the family': the meaning of social support among black Caribbean and white British patients living with advanced cancer.

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King's College London, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, London, UK.



Little is known about the perceptions and meanings of social support among black and minority ethnic groups living with advanced cancer in the UK. The aim of this study was to explore social support networks and their meaning among Black Caribbean and White British patients living with advanced cancer.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 Black Caribbean and 19 White British cancer patients and analysed using the framework approach.


In all, 25 of 26 Black Caribbean and 18 of 19 White British participants volunteered views on the presence of social support in their lives. The presence of a spouse or partners was an indispensable feature within the social support networks in both ethnic groups. More Black Caribbean than White British participants referred to the presence of social networks made through their church communities as being a source of practical and emotional support.


We recommend that when health and social-care professionals perform an assessment interview with patients from cultural backgrounds different to their own, opportunities should be made for patients to express information about their social support networks. This will help them to better understand their place alongside statutory services. Spouses and partners should be given greater recognition of their contribution in order to continue with their important role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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