American Indian women cancer survivors’ coping with depressive symptoms


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Depressive symptoms have been identified as a primary predictor of quality of life among cancer patients. Depression and cancer are co-occurring and disproportionately elevated for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women. The purpose of this article is to examine American Indian (AI) women cancer survivors’ coping mechanisms for depressive symptoms. The methodology included a qualitative descriptive approach with conventional content analysis to examine the coping strategies of AI women cancer survivors associated with depressive symptoms. The interview guide was semi-structured and developed in collaboration with a community advisory board (CAB). Data-derived qualitative analysis was used to generate codes inductively from the data. A sample of 43 AI women cancer survivors (n = 14 cervical cancer, n = 14 breast cancer, and n = 15 other cancers) from the Northern Plains region, in the state of South Dakota were interviewed. Data were collected from June 2014 to February 2015. Qualitative content analysis was used for data analysis, which allowed themes to emerge inductively from the data. Analysis revealed 430 preliminary codes. After de-briefing, validation, and discussion among coauthors, these were then sorted into 67 codes. Member checks with all available participants were conducted to minimize misinterpretation. Findings: A total of 26 participants (62%) indicated they had feelings of depression since their cancer diagnosis. Women coped with depressive feelings by (a) participating in faith traditions; (b) seeking creative and positive outlets; (c) martialing family and social support; and (d) keeping busy with other life activities. Interpretation: AI women experienced depressive symptoms following a cancer diagnosis and used a variety of positive coping mechanisms to create personal meaning. AI women may need unique support following a cancer diagnosis, and interventions should incorporate AI beliefs and traditions, such as storytelling and talking with family and community members.

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