Cancer is the second leading cause of death among individuals in the United States of America (Ries et al., 2000). Gastro-intestinal (GI) cancers account for approximately 253,500 new cases each year in both men and women. Most of the patients with GI cancer have a poor outcome (American Cancer Society., 2005; Ilson, 2001), accounting for approximately 16% of cancer related death in women and 25% of cancer related death in men (American Cancer Society, 2005). Of all cancers, lung cancer is the leading cause for death among men and women (American Cancer Society., 2005).
GI cancer constitutes a disease with intensive medical research focused on the improvement of prevention, early detection and treatment. How patients with GI cancer deal with the diagnosis remains understudied to date. Lung cancer research has focused particularly on smoking and its impact on lung cancer epidemiology. Lung cancer patients' coping strategies have been studied. Issues related to the meaning of life, health and self-care, physical functioning, coping and support have been highlighted as being important in lung cancer patients' dealing with their disease situation (Maliski, Sarna, Evangelista, & Padilla, 2003; Sharf, Stelljes, & Gordon, 2005). Similarly, patients' dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer has been investigated (Andritsch et al., 2004; Badger, Braden, Mishel, & Longman, 2004; Northouse, Templin, Mood, & Oberst, 1998). Constructs such as uncertainty and locus control are highly important in coping with the disease situation. Uncertainty has been linked with quality of life (Sammarco, 2001;2003). Evidence also exists that transitoriness, which is the confrontation with the finitude of human life, plays an important role in how individuals cope (Cohen et al., 2004; Shaha & Cox, 2003). The interrelationship between and among transitoriness, uncertainty and locus of control has yet to be delineated. There is also a need to explore transitoriness more fully as it has mainly been subsumed in concepts such as 'finding meaning in illness' or 'anxiety' (Houldin, 2003). Transitoriness has been linked with patient outcomes such as quality of life (Houldin, 2003). It is necessary to explore the concept of transitoriness to establish its links with uncertainty and locus of control. It is equally important to explore the association of these three concepts together with patients' psycho-social well-being and quality of life. By exploring these associations, the individual's way of coping with the cancer diagnosis will be better understood and lead to the development of nursing interventions to support persons with cancer, especially those with lung and GI cancer.
It will then be possible a) to explore the concept of transitoriness by describing its interrelationship with uncertainty and locus of control, and b) to investigate the association among transitoriness, uncertainty, locus of control, psycho-social well-being and quality of life. The following research questions will be addressed in the study:
- Is cancer patients' confrontation with life's finitude related to uncertainty and locus of control?
- Are cancer patients' confrontation with life's finitude, uncertainty and locus of control associated with psychosocial well-being and quality of life?
- Are there differences in these associations between patients with different forms of cancer?