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Coping With Cancer: Examining the Supports Available to Women With Gynecologic Cancer at Saskatoon Cancer Center
  1. Sarah N. Smith, BSc*,
  2. Donna Chizen, MD, FRCSC and
  3. Anita Agrawal, MD, FRCSC
  1. *College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan; and
  2. Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sarah N. Smith, BSc, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, 1440-14th Ave, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4P 0W5. E-mail: snp447{at}


Objective When women are diagnosed and treated for gynecologic cancer, they must find ways to cope. Cancer is both a physically and emotionally challenging disease. This study aims to identify existing coping strategies in women diagnosed with gynecologic cancer throughout their cancer journey and to add to these supports to help women cope with their cancer.

Methods Women with gynecologic cancer were interviewed individually according to focus group principles during scheduled clinic visits at Saskatoon Cancer Center to identify coping strategies following diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Interviews were used to inform researchers before preparing a survey about coping with cancer. During 8 weeks, women receiving care were surveyed. Questions explored diagnosis, therapy phase, feelings, attitudes, and support.

Results Sixteen women were interviewed; questionnaires were distributed to 75 women with cervical (20.7%), uterine (22.2%), ovarian (60.3%), and vulvar cancer (1.6%). After diagnosis, the major support was family in 96.8%, and talking helped in 71.4%. All women found their gynecologic oncologist and nurse were easy to talk to/supportive. Only 12.7% attended counseling, 17.5% attended workshops/patient education sessions, and 9.5% attended support groups. Reasons for not receiving supportive counseling were voiced. A small number of alternative therapies tried by 60.3% were deemed helpful in 97.4%. Parking at the cancer center was a stressor in 81%. Participants felt that the Saskatoon gynecologic cancer care team fulfilled their needs emotionally. Patients want information about workshops, support meetings, and other modalities to improve their quality of life during their cancer journey.

Conclusion Providing better quality and type of available supports may enhance the experience of women following diagnosis and during therapy for cancer and will help women to cope with cancer more effectively.

  • Social supports
  • Female genital neoplasm
  • Coping mechanisms

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  • Source of support: Dean’s Research Project Grant, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan. Support was received from the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.