Adjusting to a Diagnosis of Cancer: Processes for Building Patient Capacity for Decision-Making

Linda Emanuel, Rebecca Johnson*, Caroline Taromino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This short report contributes to the expanding body of qualitative research literature about the cognitive processes of newly diagnosed cancer patients as they adjust to a diagnosis of cancer. The study is based on secondary qualitative analysis of audio records collected as part of a larger NIH study (RO1D: An Interdisciplinary Perspective: A Social Science Examination of Oncofertility RL1 HD058296). Core categories illustrate the processes of “naming it,” “dealing with dealing with it,” and finding the “new norm” and were based on nine patient experiences. We observe that our substantive conceptual categories have equivalents in bereavement and grief literature where researchers have posited the theory that processing the diagnosis of a terminal illness is the equivalent to adjusting to a bereavement. These findings emphasize the importance of understanding real-time patient thoughts and feelings as soon after diagnosis as was possible with full patient consent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-495
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Bereavement
  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Decision making
  • Psychological adjustment
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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