Patients with newly diagnosed, incurable cancer who use emotional support and acceptance coping strategies experience better quality of life (QOL) and mood; denial and self-blame strategies correlate negatively with these outcomes, a study published online first in the journal Cancer has shown.1

How patients with incurable cancer cope with the many physical and emotional stressors they face is largely unknown. Therefore, researchers sought to determine what strategies these patients use to cope and how these strategies affect their QOL and mood.

For this study, baseline QOL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–General), mood (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and coping (Brief COPE) was assessed in patients within 8 weeks of a diagnosis of incurable lung or GI cancer and before randomization for a trial of palliative care.

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The assessment included 350 participants (mean age, 64.9 years). Most of the participants were male (54.0%), married (70.0%), and had lung cancer (54.6%).

More than three-quarters of participants reported using emotional support coping (77.0%), and almost half reported high use of acceptance (44.8%); however, some participants reported using self-blame (37.9%) and denial (28.2%) strategies.

Emotional support (QOL: β = 2.65, P < .01; depression: β = –0.56, P = .02) and acceptance (QOL: β = 1.55, P < .01; depression: β = –0.37, P = .01; anxiety: β = –0.34, P = .02) strategies were associated with better QOL and mood.

Denial (QOL: β = –1.97, P < .01; depression: β = 0.36, P = .01; anxiety: β = 0.61, P < .01) and self-blame (QOL: β = –2.31, P < .01; depression: β = 0.58, P < .01; anxiety: β = 0.66, P < .01) strategies were associated with worse QOL and mood.

The researchers recommend cultivating the use of adaptive coping strategies in interventions aimed at improving QOL and mood in patients with incurable disease.


1. Nipp RD, El-Jawahri A, Fishbein JN, et al. The relationship between coping strategies, quality of life, and mood in patients with incurable cancer [published online ahead of print April 18, 2016]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.30025.