Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Kayser, Karen

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Harris, Lesley

Committee Member

Moon, Heehyul

Committee Member

Schapmire, Tara

Author's Keywords

head and neck cancer; psychosocial oncology; women; coping


Background: Head and neck cancer (HNC) is emotionally and physically burdensome to people who are diagnosed with this disease. In the United States, nearly 30% of people diagnosed with HNC are women. Studies about depression and anxiety in this population have been conducted for decades; however, there are no studies that specifically examine the psychosocial implications of this disease from the perspective of women. Method: Women diagnosed with HNC were recruited from two academic medical centers in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana tri-state area to explore the lived experience of women with HNC and how this disease impacts their close relationships. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 women. Using grounded theory analysis techniques, themes emerged from the interviews to describe the experience of women living with HNC. Results: Women describe tremendous physical challenges throughout the treatment process and side effects lasting years after completing treatment. The women also experienced a range of emotions and employed various strategies to cope with their disease. Many experienced increased closeness in their relationships with loved ones and described social support as one of the most valuable assets in their cancer journey. Conclusion: The experience of HNC is physically and emotionally difficult for women who are diagnosed with the disease. Women must adjust to changes in their appearance and lifestyle but are able to manage with increased closeness that develops in their close relationships.

Included in

Social Work Commons