Challenges, coping strategies and social support among cancer patients in a tertiary institution, south-east, Nigeria


Coping strategies
Social support
Cancer patients

How to Cite

Omotola, N. J., Mbadugha, C. J., & Madu, O. T. (2023). Challenges, coping strategies and social support among cancer patients in a tertiary institution, south-east, Nigeria. African Journal of Biomedical Research, 26(3), 377–382.


Cancer ranks as the second largest cause of death globally. However, little is known about the challenges, coping mechanisms, and social support among this vulnerable group in Nigeria. This study identified the challenges, coping mechanisms, and social support among cancer patients attending the oncology clinic at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu State. This was a descriptive cross-sectional study on 124 conveniently selected cancer patients.  A researcher-developed questionnaire about the patients' challenges, coping mechanisms, and social support was used to gather data. Data was analyzed using frequency, percentages, mean and standard deviation and presented in tables. The result showed that the major challenges of the respondents were severe pains and altered body image (92.7%), long waiting hours to be seen by the doctors (91.9%), and lack of finance to keep up with the treatment regimen (86.3). Coping strategies adopted by respondents were fervent prayers and religious activities (3.61±0.68), dieting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (3.57±0.70), and having a fighting spirit (3.14±1.14). The major sources of social support were family (3.70±0.60), and spouse (3.36±1.03). The highest forms of support were emotional (3.66±0.60), physical (3.65±0.57) and financial (3.02±0.82) support. The majority of the patients face considerable challenges, adopted fervent prayers and religious activities, dieting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a coping strategies. Also the major social support identify among this group is from their family. It is therefore recommended the health care provider should increase family involvement in patients care and also enhance spiritual care.


Adam, A., Koranteng, F. (2020). Availability, accessibility and impact of social support on breast cancer treatment among breast cancer patients in Kumasi, Ghana: A qualitative study. PLOS ONE, 15(4): e0231691.

Akuoko, C. P., Armah, E., Sarpong, T., Quansah, D. Y., Amankwaa, I., & Boateng, D. (2017). Barriers to early presentation and diagnosis of breast cancer among African women living in sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS ONE, 12(1), 1–18.

Arora, N. K., Finney Rutten, L. J., Gustafson, D. H., Moser, R. & Hawkinsn, R. P. (2007). Perceived helpfulness and impact of social support provided by family, friends, and health care providers to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 16(5). 474–486

Benson, R.B., Cobbold, B., Boamah, E.O., Akuoko, C.P., Boateng, D. (2020). Challenges, coping strategies and social support among breast cancer patients in Ghana. Hindawi advances in Public Health, 11. 4817932. .

Bonsu A. B., Aziato L., & Clegg-Lamptey J. N. A. (2014). Living with advanced breast cancer

among Ghanaian women:emotional and psychosocial experiences. International Journal of Palliative Care, Article ID 403473, 1-9

Chabowski, M., Jankowska-Polaska, B., Comper, K., Janczak, D. (2018). The effect of coping strategy on quality of life in patients with NSCLC. Cancer manag Res, 10: 4085-93. doi: 10.2147/CMAR.S175210.

Costa-Requena, G., Ballester Arnal, R., & Gil, F. (2015). The influence of coping response and health-related quality of life on perceived social support during cancer treatment. Palliative & Supportive Care, 13(3), 683–689.

Faraci, F., Bottaro, R., Gaparo, G. (2021). Coping strategies and perceived social support among cancer patients: A cross sectional analysis. Mediterranean journal of Clinical Psychology, 9(1).

Ferlay, J., Ernk, M., Lam, F., Colombet, M., Mery, L., Pineros, M., et al. (2020). Global cancer

observatory: cancer today. Lyon: international Agency for Research on Cancer. (

Fong, A. J., Scarapicchia, T.M., Mc Donough. M. J., Wrosh, C., Sabiston, C.M. (2017). Changes in social support predict emotional wellbeing in breast cancer survivors. Psycho-oncology. 26(5), 664-71. Pon.4064 PMID: 26818101.

Fernandes, A. F., Cruz, A., Moreira, C., Santos, M.C., & Silva, T. (2014). Social support

provided to women undergoing breast cancer treatment: a study

review. Advances in Breast Cancer Research, 3(2), 47–53.

Kelkil, B.A., Niguse, T.A., Negalign, G.D., Mulugeta, W. (2022). Coping strategies of stress

and its associated factors among breast cancer patients in Tikur Anbesa specialized hospital, Ethiopia: institution-based cross- sectional study. BMC Women’s Health. 22,252. .

Kim, J., Han, J., Shaw, B., McTavish, F., & Gustafson, D. (2010). The roles of social support and coping strategies in predicting breast cancer patients’ emotional well-being: testing mediation and moderation models. Journal of Health Psychology, 15(4), 543–52. PMID: 20460411

Lazarus, R. (1999). Stress and Emotion: A New Synthesis,. New York; Springer Publishing Co.

Lin, C.C. (2016). The roles of social support and coping style in the relationship between

gratitude and wellbeing. Personality and Individual Differences. 1(89):13–8

Manasij, M., Maitraye, B. (2020). Challenges to health care delivery faced by cancer patients in

India during the COVID-19 Pandemic. J Prim Care Community Health. 11. doi: 10.1177/2150132720942705.

Mishra, V. S., & Saranath, D. (2019). Association between demographic features and perceived

social support in the mental adjustment to breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 28(3), 629-634.

Nakaganda, A., Kristen, S., Leocadia, K., Deborah, D., Kampi, R.c, Orem, I. (2020).

Challenges fed by cancer patients in Uganda: Implications for health systems strengthening in resource limited settings. Journal of cancer policy, 27.

Ozdemir, D., & Tas Arslan, F. (2018). An investigation of the relationship between social support and coping with stress in women with breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 27(9), 2214–2219.

Parikh, P. B., Yang, J., Leigh, S., Dorjee, K., Parikh, R., Sakellarios, N., Meng, H., & Brown, D. L. (2014). The Impact of Financial Barriers on Access to Care , Quality of Care and Vascular Morbidity Among Patients with Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease. J Gen Intern Med, 29(1), 76–81.

Sajadian, A., Rajilahiji, M., Motaharinasab, A., Kazemnejad, A., Haghighat, S. (2017). Breast cancer coping strategies after diagnosis: a six-month follow-up. Multidiscip Cancer Investig, vol 1(4), 12-60. doi: 10.21859/ mci-01042

Spatuzzi R, Vespa A, Lorenzi P, Miccinesi G, Ricciuti M, Cifarelli W. (2016).

Evaluation of social support, quality of life, and body image in women with breast cancer. Breast Care,11(1):28–32. PMID: 27051393

Sung, H., Ferlay, J., Siegel, R. L., Laversanne, M., Soerjomataram, I., Jemal, A., & Bray, F. (2021). Global Cancer Statistics 2020 : GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA CANCER J CLIN, 71(3), 209–249.

Taylor, C., Harris, J., Stenner, K., Sevdalis, N., & Green, S. A. J. (2021). A multi-method

evaluation of the implementation of a cancer teamwork assessment and feedback improvement programme (MDT-FIT) across a large integrated cancer system. Cancer medicine, 10(4), 1240–1252.

Tomai, M., Lauriola, M., & Caputo, A. (2019). Are social support and coping styles differently associated with adjustment to cancer in early and advanced stages? Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 7(1).

Warner, R., Hoinville, L., Pottle, E., Taylor, C., & Green, J. (2021). Refocusing cancer

multidisciplinary team meetings in the United Kingdom: comparing urology with other specialties. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 103(1), 10–17.

Winters, D. A., Soukup, T., Sevdalis, N., Green, J. S. A., & Lamb, B. W. (2021). The cancer

multidisciplinary team meeting: in need of change? History, challenges and future perspectives. BJU international, 128(3), 271–279.

World Health Organization. (2020). WHO report on cancer: setting priorities, investing wisely

and providing care for all. Available at

Yağmur, Y., & Duman, M. (2016). The relationship between the social support level perceived by patients with gynaecologic cancer and mental adjustment to cancer. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 134(2), 208–211.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2023 African Journal of Biomedical Research