Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and the most common cancer in women in resource limited settings. Regardless of the stage at which a diagnosis of cancer is made, individuals who receive such a diagnosis are stressed both psychologically and emotionally, thus they need to employee certain mechanism in order to cope. Using Lazarus and Folkman’s Transaction Model of Stress and Coping, a qualitative descriptive phenomenological research was conducted to explore how patients react to a diagnosis of cervical cancer, and the coping strategies they utilize in order to adapt. A total of 19 cervical cancer patients were interviewed who had lived with cancer for three months and above. Data were analyzed using content analysis. Three main characteristic reactions/feelings at the time of diagnosis were identified including; fear of eminent death, self-pity, and disbelief. Fear of eminent death was the most profound. Meanwhile five themes emerged on how the patients were coping with their diagnosis; faith in God coupled with prayer, support from family, support from Church, support from medical personnel, and assurance from fellow patients and cancer survivors. In conclusion it was acknowledged that a diagnosis of cervical cancer is a stressful to those affected as evidenced by negative reactions from those who receive such diagnosis is stressful. Therefore, individuals who are diagnoses with cervical cancer irrespective of the stage, ought to employee certain coping mechanisms in order to adapt.
Key words: Stress, coping mechanisms, cervical cancer patients, adaptation.
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