Psychosocial Impact of Cancer in Low-Income Rural/Urban Women: Phase II


  • Peg Lyons University of Alabama
  • M. Mitchell Shelton University of Alabama



Purpose: The goal of this study was to understand the emotional impact of diagnoses of breast or cervical cancer on low-income rural Southern women by exploring depression and cancer-related quality of life in women who have been diagnosed with one of these cancers.
Method: The design for this descriptive study was a one-time cross-sectional telephone survey. This study reports the findings from Phase II of the project. In Phase II, results from Phase I, as well as established measures of depression (CES-D) and cancer-related quality of life (FACT-B) were used to develop a telephone survey instrument that measured the impact of cancer on the lives of an additional 60 women from the designated areas.
Findings: Results from Phase II indicate that both African American and Caucasian women, irregardless of rural or urban residence, who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer, experience significant anxiety, rely heavily on support systems that are already in place, are very knowledgeable about their diagnosis and treatment, have difficulty in the management of side-effects during treatment, use spirituality as a mechanism for coping with the illness, would utilize counseling services from a nurse after diagnosis, and generally do not meet criteria for clinical depression.
African American breast cancer patients were found to have a significantly (F=8.11) higher quality of life score than Caucasian breast cancer patients. Breast cancer patients who had a lumpectomy were found to have a significantly (F=5.91) higher quality of life score than those breast cancer patients who had undergone a mastectomy. Living in a rural area, experiencing side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and swelling was predictive of a significantly lower quality of life.
Examination of cancer patients’ depression scores found a higher incidence of depressive symptoms if they did not receive adequate information prior to surgery. Patients diagnosed with cervical cancer were significantly more depressed than patients with breast cancer. Limitations: The use of convenience sampling and a small sample size in this study limits generalizability.
Implications: This study provides valuable information for practitioners to use in caring for breast or cervical cancer patients.