Journal of Cancer Education

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 43–50 | Cite as

Exploring Coping Strategies Among Young Asian American Women Breast Cancer Survivors

  • Grace J. Yoo
  • Anantha Sudhakar
  • Mai Nhung Le
  • Ellen G. Levine


In recent years, breast cancer rates among young Asian American women have been increasing. Despite increases in breast cancer among young Asian American women, little is known about how this population copes throughout diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. This study was a qualitative exploration of how young Asian American women cope with breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. In-depth interviews with 22 young (under the age of 50) Asian American women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer were conducted. Through qualitative data analysis, three major themes emerged including moving from managing the emotions of others to expressing emotional vulnerability, moving from work and productivity to work-life balance, and moving beyond the family and reaching out to breast cancer survivors. At diagnosis, participants worked to maintain normalcy including caring for others and working during treatment. Once treatment was over, women worked to find ways to use their experience as a transformative one and also to develop more positive coping skills including expressing emotional vulnerability and reaching out to others. Further studies are needed to create and test culturally tailored supportive interventions that enhance positive coping tools among young Asian American women diagnosed by breast cancer.


Breast cancer Asian American Young women Coping 


  1. 1.
    American Cancer Society (2014) Breast cancer facts & figures 2013–2014. American Cancer Society, Inc., AtlantaGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Yi M, Liu P, Li X, Mittendorf EA, He J, Ren Y, Nayeemuddin K, Hunt KK (2012) Comparative analysis of clinicopathologic features, treatment, and survival of Asian women with a breast cancer diagnosis residing in the United States. Cancer 118(17):4117–4125CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Knobf MT (2007) Psychosocial responses in breast cancer survivors. Semin Oncol Nurs 23:71–83. doi:10.1016/j.soncn.2006.11.009 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Burgess C, Conrnelius V, Love S, Graham J, Richards M, Ramirez A (2005) Depression and anxiety in women with early breast cancer: five-year observational cohort study. BMJ, 330, 702. doi: 0.1136/bmj.38343.670868.D3Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Howard-Anderson J, Ganz PA, Bower JE, Stanton AL (2012) Quality of life, fertility concerns, and behavioral health outcomes in younger breast cancer survivors: a systematic review. J Natl Cancer Inst 104(5):386–405. doi:10.1093/jnci/djr541 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Morrow PK, Broxson AC, Munsell MF, Basen-Enquist K, Rosenblum CK, Schover LR, Hortobagyi GN (2014) Effect of age and race on quality of life in young breast cancer survivors. Clin Breast Cancer 14(2):e21–e31CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lazarus RS, Folkman S (1984) Stress, appraisal, and coping. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Daher M (2012). Cultural beliefs and values in cancer patients. Ann Oncol, 23, iii66-iii69. doi: 0.1093/annonc/mds091Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Culver JL, Arena PL, Antoni MH, Carver CS (2002) Coping and distress among women under treatment for early stage breast cancer: comparing African Americans, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Psychooncology 11:495–504. doi:10.1002/pon.615 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Yoo GJ, Levine EG, Pasick R (2014). Breast cancer and coping among women of color: a systematic review of the literature. Support Care Cancer, 22: 811–824. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-2057-3
  11. 11.
    Reynolds P, Hurley S, Torres M, Jackson J, Boyd P, Chen VW (2000) Use of coping strategies and breast cancer survival: results from the Black/White cancer survival study. Am J Epidemiol 152:940–949CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Iwamoto D, Liu WM, McCoy TE (2011) An exploratory model of substance use among Asian American women: the role of depression, coping, peer use and Asian values. J Ethn Subst Abus 10(4):295–315. doi:10.1080/15332640.2011.623494 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ashing KT, Padilla G, Tejero J, Kagawa-Singer M (2003) Understanding the breast cancer experience of Asian American women. Psycho-Oncology 12:38–58. doi:10.1002/pon.632 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ashing-Giwa KT, Padilla G, Tejero J, Kraemer J, Wright K, Coscarelli A, Clayton S, Williams I, Hills D (2004) Understanding the breast cancer experience of women: a qualitative study of African American, Asian American, Latina and Caucasian cancer survivors. Psycho-Oncology 13:408–28. doi:10.1002/pon.750 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wen K-Y, Fang CV, Ma GX (2014) Breast cancer experience and survivorship among Asian Americans: a systematic review. J Cancer Survivorship 8:94–107. doi:10.1007/s11764-013-0320-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Sun A, Wong-Kim E, Stearman S, Chow EA (2005) Quality of life in Chinese patients with breast cancer. Cancer 104:2952–2954. doi:10.1002/cncr.21516 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Yoo GJ, Aviv C, Levine EG, Ewing C, Au A (2010) Emotion work: disclosing cancer. Support Care Cancer 18:205–215. doi:10.1007/s00520-009-0646-y CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kagawa-Singer M, Wellisch DK (2003) Breast cancer patients’ perceptions of their husbands’ support in a cross-cultural context. Psycho-Oncology 12(1):24–37CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lu Q, Man J, You J., LeRoy AS (2015). The link between ambivalence over emotional expression and depressive symptoms among Chinese breast cancer survivors. J Psychosom Res79(2):153–158. ​doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.01.007 Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lim JW (2014) Communication, coping, and quality of life of breast cancer survivors and family/friend dyads: a pilot study of Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans. Psycho-Oncology 23(11):1243–1251CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Corbin JM, Strauss A (1990) Grounded theory research: procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qual Sociol 13(1):3–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Rassmusen DM, Elverdam B (2008) The meaning of work and working life after cancer: an interview study. Psycho-Oncology 17(12):1232–1238. doi:10.1002/pon.1354 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lu Q, You J, Man J, Loh A, Young L (2014, November). Evaluating a culturally tailored peer-mentoring and education pilot intervention among Chinese breast cancer survivors using a mixed-methods approach. In Oncology nursing forum (Vol. 41, No. 6, p. 629). NIH Public AccessGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Burke NJ, Villero O, Guerra C (2012) Passing through meanings of survivorship and support among Filipinas with breast cancer. Qual Health Res 22(2):189–198CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lewis PE, Sheng M, Rhodes MM, Jackson KE, Schover LR (2012) Psychosocial concerns of young African American breast cancer survivors. J Psychosoc Oncol 30(2):168–184CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lu Q, Zheng D, Young L, Kagawa-Singer M, Loh A (2012) A pilot study of expressive writing intervention among Chinese-speaking breast cancer survivors. Health Psychol 31(5):548CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lim JW, Yi J, Zebrack B (2008) Acculturation, social support, and quality of life for Korean immigrant breast and gynecological cancer survivors. Ethn Health 13(3):243–260CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lim JW, Baik OM, Ashing-Giwa KT (2012) Cultural health beliefs and health behaviors in Asian American breast cancer survivors: a mixed-methods approach. Oncol Nurs Forum 39(4):388–397CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grace J. Yoo
    • 1
  • Anantha Sudhakar
    • 1
  • Mai Nhung Le
    • 1
  • Ellen G. Levine
    • 2
  1. 1.Asian American StudiesSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Walden UniversityMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations