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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • coping;
  • interviews;
  • Iranian women;
  • nursing;
  • qualitative research;
  • research report

Aim.  This paper reports a study exploring how Iranian women coped with newly diagnosed breast cancer and provides a foundation for cultural-based care.

Background.  Although research has indicated that coping strategies are associated with adaptation to breast cancer, and despite the number of women with newly diagnosed breast cancer increasing each year, there is no information on how Iranian women cope with breast cancer when compared with women of other cultures.

Method.  In this qualitative study, 19 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer were interviewed during the period May–September 2004 about coping with their disease. Interviews were analysed using a content analysis method.

Findings.  The main themes emerging from this qualitative study included coping using a religious approach (acceptance of disease as God's will; spiritual fighting), thinking about the disease (positive thinking: positive suggestion, hope, intentional forgetfulness; negative thinking: hopelessness, fear, impaired body image), accepting the fact of the disease (active acceptance; passive acceptance), social and cultural factors and finally finding support from significant others.

Conclusion.  Understanding how Iranian women cope with diagnosis of breast cancer is important to nurses involved in the process of healing. The majority of strategies used by Iranian women were positive, and religious faith played a major role in this. The findings of the study can be used to design a nursing approach to improve successful coping in Iranian women suffering from breast cancer, and can provide nurses and other healthcare professionals with deeper understanding of these women as they face this diagnosis.