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Breast Cancer Coping Styles

womanWestern culture puts enormous pressure on women to take charge of their breast cancer, but not ever women responds the same to the new challenge.

Coping styles vary say Temple University sociologist Julia Ericksen. She believes each style is valid and effective in helping one make sense of her illness.

Ericksen set out to explore how women respond to a diagnosis of breast cancer shortly after receiving her own diagnosis. She discovered there are four types of responders, including the “take charge” type, each valuable for different women.

And, because breasts are one of the most important Western symbols of femininity and breast cancer receives more attention in the media than other forms of cancer, Ericksen also investigated how the cultural messages women receive about breast cancer inform their journeys.

Examples of her research include:

    • A “religious responder,” Shantal, 51, drew strength from her faith in God. After recovery, Shantal became an activist and advocate for African American women with breast cancer.
    • An “alternative medicine expert,” Hannah, 44, turned to yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback techniques and visualization tapes during her treatment.
    • A “traditional responder,’ Sheila, 42, experienced medical problems following reconstruction and wrestled with issues pertaining to body image.
    • A “biomedical expert,” Donna, 48, made her own decisions about her care and delegated the job of responding to friends’ inquiries to her husband.

Ericksen’s interviews of 96 women, aged 26-72, in the Philadelphia area shed light on how race, income, religion, educational background and sexual orientation contribute to the experience of illness.

It’s important for doctors, family members and friends to understand the response type of their patient or loved one with breast cancer and to resist urging a different kind of response which might be uncomfortable or ineffective.

“A woman doesn’t have to feel guilty about being a traditional responder, for example. Perhaps she has small children and doesn’t have time to devote to every little detail of her care,” said Ericksen. “That’s okay.”

Source: Temple University

Breast Cancer Coping Styles

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Breast Cancer Coping Styles. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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