A study looking at how people with advanced cancer and their carers cope

Cancer type:

All cancer types





This study was done to find out how people with advanced cancer and their carers learn about, develop and maintain coping skills.

Stress and uncertainty can affect the quality of life and health of people with advanced cancer and their carers. Developing positive ways to cope with the stress and uncertainty of having cancer that has spread to another part of the body can help them keep healthy and have a better quality of life.

The researchers wanted to find out and understand how people with advanced cancer and their carers develop and maintain a positive outlook and sense of wellbeing.

Summary of results

This study found that patients and carers had a range of coping strategies.

This study recruited 54 people,

  • 27 patients with advanced cancer
  • 27 people who helped look after them (carers)

The research team interviewed everyone who took part at least once, and most of them again between 4 and 12 weeks later. They asked about the techniques people used to cope with the uncertainty of advanced cancer. They looked at how, why and when the patients and carers had developed these techniques. They found that

  • Some people used coping strategies that they had already learnt while coping with other stressful life events
  • Some had learnt new methods to help them cope since they had been diagnosed with cancer
  • Coping is something that evolves over time
  • People with advanced cancer accept that what is ‘normal’ for them is likely to change
  • To maintain wellbeing it is important to have good days, but everyone has their own definition of a ‘good day’
  • Self indulgence is important – doing something you enjoy or having a treat, just to make yourself feel good. Some people did this differently or more often than they did before they were diagnosed with cancer
  • Socialising and getting support from others is important
  • People find information from other people going through the same thing very valuable when developing coping strategies, and get different information from peers than they do from health professionals
  • It is important to support the development of coping strategies in people with advanced cancer and their carers

Some of the people taking part suggested things that might help, including

  • Talking to other patients to swap ideas and ways of coping
  • Having a single point of contact for professional help
  • Being able to get information, advice and reassurance between appointments
  • Having information available 24 hours a day

The research team concluded that people use a variety of coping strategies at different times. They suggest it would be useful to develop initiatives to help people cope that involve other patients and carers, as well as health professionals.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) but may not have been published in a medical journal.  The figures we quote above were provided by the research team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Catherine Walshe

Supported by

Dimbleby Cancer Care
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University of Manchester

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 9455

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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