Mutual Support and Challenges Among Chinese Couples Living With Colorectal Cancer: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Background

A diagnosis of cancer and its treatment affect couples as a unit, and they must cope and give each other mutual support as dyads. Few studies have focused explicitly on understanding mutual support among couples coping with colorectal cancer (CRC).

Objective

The aim of this study was to explore the mutual support of couples in their journey of coping together with CRC.

Methods

This is a qualitative descriptive study with purposeful sampling. A total of 11 couples in which 1 partner has been diagnosed with CRC were recruited for in-depth interviews.

Results

Three themes and 8 subthemes emerged from a conventional content analysis. The 3 themes were mutual support and reciprocity, challenges confronted in the provision of support, and experiencing adjustments/outcomes.

Conclusion

The findings of this study provide insights to healthcare professionals on the process by which couples coping with CRC give each other mutual support and the related challenges. This will aid in the development of an intervention program to support such couples, through enhancing their mutual support, overcoming challenges, and improving their adjustment/outcomes.

Implications for Practice

Healthcare professionals need to (1) include the spouse of the cancer patients in their care and provide them with support, (2) encourage the couples to share their concerns with each other, (3) encourage spousal caregivers to take good care of themselves while providing support to their loved ones with CRC, and (4) develop a couple-based intervention program in providing support to couples coping with cancer as dyads.

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