The challenges and coping strategies of cervical cancer patients and their families in Kenya

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The study adopted an explorative descriptive study design that utilized qualitative research methods in the exploration of the challenges and coping strategies developed by cervical cancer patients and their families. In-depth interviews and key informant interviews were the primary data collection methods. The overall objective of the study was to explore the challenges of cervical cancer patients and their families and the coping strategies they put into action to overcome those challenges. The study responded to two specific objectives namely; to establish the challenges faced by cervical cancer patients and their families; to determine the coping strategies that cervical cancer patients and their families have developed to counter the challenges of living with cervical cancer. 18 cervical cancer patients and 18 care givers were the key informants of this study. The study explored the lived experiences of cervical cancer patients and their families as a way of understanding challenges and the dynamics of living with chronic illnesses. Data was coded and analysed thematically. The themes were identified based on the study objectives. The challenges identified through this study are; economic strain, access to health care, delayed diagnosis, lack of information on cervical cancer, anxiety and fear of death, family stress, sexuality as well as fear of stigmatization and avoidance. The patients and families had over time put into action coping strategies to counter the challenges faced in living with cervical cancer. The coping strategies as identified in this study include; turning to religion, family support, positive reinterpretation, and palliative care. Based on the study findings there are indeed challenges faced by cervical cancer patients and their families, and to cope with these challenges the families and the patients have developed strategies but t here is still a lot that needs to be done in addressing the challenges of living with cervical cancer. The study points out a few recommendations for policy, service delivery and further research. One of the recommendations is to improve health systems as a part of concerted efforts against cervical cancer. This is to facilitate more awareness creation on cervical cancer and screening leading to early diagnosis and treatment to this curable and preventable cancer. In service delivery, the recommendation is to improve quality of life by meeting the patients' needs with holistic care (physical, psychosocial and spiritual support) through palliative care. For further research, the study proposes research on the management tasks of patients with chronic illnesses including cervical cancer. Findings will better the understanding of caregivers' experience, and on how the adjustment to the care giver's role impacts on the ability to provide care to the cancer patient.

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