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J Human Stress. 1987 Winter;13(4):149-58.

Coping with cancer.

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Department of Psychology, Santa Clara (Calif) University.


This study examined coping strategies in head and neck cancer patients. The relationships between the use of approach and avoidant coping strategies and the physical and emotional distress of 35 newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients during the early stages of cancer treatment were evaluated. Patients were categorized on the basis of coping strategy at the time of diagnosis and then evaluated twice during the course of their treatment at four- to six-week intervals. Cancer patients who predominantly employed either approach or avoidant strategies had lower initial levels of emotional distress than patients who did not use either of these strategies. Although symptoms of distress decreased in patients using approach or avoidance, symptoms increased for those patients who did not use these strategies. The level of stress for this cancer population is highest at the point of confirmed diagnosis and recedes during the course of treatment. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

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