“I Told Myself to Stay Positive” Perceptions of Coping Among Latinos With a Cancer Diagnosis Living in the United States

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This study contributes to the sparse body of literature examining perceptions of coping among Latino men and women with a cancer diagnosis living in the United States. There are currently 50 million Latinos in the United States and, by 2050, projected to grow to 128 million. Although some research indicates that Latinos have unique sociocultural beliefs that influence their cancer care, very little is known about their perceptions of coping after being diagnosed with cancer. We examined Latino men and women’s perceptions of coping to understand the meaning of their experience with cancer


Using criterion sampling technique, 60 immigrant and migrant Latino men and women diagnosed with cancer within the past 5 years were recruited from community-based organizations, clinics, and churches. The study consisted of 60- to 90-minute semistructured interviews asking open-ended questions pertaining to coping. The qualitative design facilitated an understanding of coping within the participants’ social and cultural contexts.


Median age of the participants was 55 years. Among the women, 80% had breast cancer; 12% had ovarian cancer; and 8% had throat, thyroid, stomach, or skin cancers. Among the men, 94% had prostate cancer and 6% had brain, colorectal, or lung cancers. Emerging themes associated with the development of coping strategies involved positive reframing, family support, religion and spirituality, and support from health care providers. The term “positive reframing” relates to finding meaning and positive emotions that help sustain the coping process, despite having a cancer diagnosis. In addition, when medical and helping professionals provided tangible support, participants engaged in meaning-based coping.


This study provides insights regarding the existing coping strategies which Latinos utilize and provides clinician-tangible information pertaining to participant’s engagement in meaning-based coping. Family support facilitated coping among the Latino men and women. The role of religion and spirituality in the lives of the participants enabled them to cope with the cancer diagnosis. Future research is necessary to examine coping strategies regarding specific cancers at end of life.

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