• adjustment;
  • breast cancer;
  • Chinese women;
  • coping;
  • interviews;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology


Title. 'Making the best of it': Chinese women's experiences of adjusting to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe Chinese women’s experiences of adjusting to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Background.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and its diagnosis and treatment are pivotal life-changing events that prompt women to make immediate adjustments. Adjustment to breast cancer has been studied as a way of coping with a stressful event and adapting to chronic illness. Adequate adjustment through coping and adaptation leads to successful completion of treatment and improved quality of life.

Method.  A descriptive phenomenological method was used, and 22 Chinese women were interviewed at a large cancer centre in Beijing, China, in 2004–2005.

Findings.  Facing breast cancer, Chinese women tried to ‘make the best of it’. The essences of Chinese women’s experiences were: facing the reality of cancer diagnosis, taking an active part in the cancer treatment, sustaining an optimistic spirit, sustaining physically, lessening the impact of cancer on others, and reflecting and moving on. Chinese women had similar perceptions of breast cancer to women in western countries as a fearful, stressful, life-threatening and life-changing event, and some of their intentions and actions were also similar to western women’s coping strategies. However, their experiences of adjusting to breast cancer also reflected Chinese historical, social and cultural influences.

Conclusions.  Our findings have implications for healthcare professionals also in countries with Chinese migrants, and could be used as a basis for information and emotional and social support interventions as these can be effective in promoting adjustment to breast cancer.