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The Use of Humor in Patients With Recurrent Ovarian Cancer: A Phenomenological Study
  1. Stephen L. Rose, MD,
  2. Ryan J. Spencer, MD and
  3. Margaret M. Rausch, BS
  1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Stephen L. Rose, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, H4/650 CSC, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53792. E-mail: srose2@wisc.edu.

Abstract

Objective Humor has been shown to decrease the use of pain medicine, improve mood, and decrease stress. However, the timing and setting for using humor can be perceived differently depending on the patient and the context. Our objective was to better understand how patients with recurrent ovarian cancer experience humor to gain insight into the feasibility of using humor as a therapeutic adjunct.

Methods We conducted structured patient interviews with women being treated for recurrent ovarian cancer. The phenomenological method of Colaizzi was used to gain an in-depth understanding of how women with recurrent ovarian cancer use and view humor in relation to their diagnosis.

Results Most patients used humor to cope with cancer and felt that humor alleviated their anxiety. The use of humor by physicians and nurses was perceived as appropriate and positive. A previous relationship with a physician was often felt necessary before the use of humor. Humor was often perceived not only in traditional jokes but was also found in humorous anecdotes from the caregiver’s life outside of medicine.

Conclusions This study revealed that humor is an often used coping mechanism for women with recurrent ovarian cancer and subjectively helps alleviate anxiety. The use of humor by physicians was found to be universally perceived as appropriate and positive. The waiting area seems to be a place where humorous experiences would be welcomed. These findings provide additional insight into the role that humor plays in the lives of patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

  • Humor
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Coping mechanisms
  • Qualitative research

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Footnotes

  • This work by supported by Shapiro Summer Research Program, The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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