Coping with the onset of cancer: coping strategies and resources of young people with cancer


Correspondence to: Prof. Helvi Kyngäs Kagawa Medical University, School of Nursing 1750–1 Ikenobe, Ohwaza, Miki-Cho, Kida-Gun, Kagawa-Ken, Japan 761–07 (e-mail:


A chronic illness, such as cancer, causes permanent changes in a person’s way of life and their way of adapting to changes. The purpose of this study was to describe the coping strategies and resources of adolescents and young adults with cancer. The data were collected by interviewing adolescents and young adults aged 16–22 (n = 14) who had had cancer for more than 2 months and who came to a university hospital for treatment or control check ups. The interview material was analysed by content analysis. Emotion-focused, appraisal-focused and problem-focused coping strategies were used. The major coping strategies were social support, belief in recovery and getting back to normal life as soon as possible. The subjects discussed with health care providers their disease, its treatment and how they could cope with everyday life as well as their energy and will-power to cope. The family was the most important source of emotional support. Also, gaining knowledge about cancer and its treatment was a good coping strategy. Moreover, a positive life attitude, belief in one’s own resources, belief in God, earlier life experiences and willingness to fight against the disease were resources for coping with cancer.