Perceptions of Chinese cancer patients of the favorable and unfavorable words conveyed by their social support providers

Cancer Nurs. Sep-Oct 2005;28(5):348-54. doi: 10.1097/00002820-200509000-00003.


The aim of this study is to describe the experience and expectations of Chinese cancer patients with regard to the favorable and unfavorable words conveyed by their social support providers. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 patients with cancer using a qualitative approach, and the data obtained were analyzed using content analysis. The findings indicated that favorable words inspired patients with cancer and raised their hopes. Such words included words expressing positive confirmation of patients' physical condition and mental status, words of encouragement and consolation, discussions of successful cases, information about advanced medical techniques and developments, practical instructions, emotional support from close relatives, confirmation about previous achievements for the family and about one's career, as well as small talk to distract the patient. Unfavorable words were those that weakened the patients' hopes and self-esteem. They included words expressing negative information and pessimistic attitudes, those indicating an overprotective attitude on the part of close relatives, as well as words expressing commiseration, advice, and an underestimation of the patients' suffering without empathy. The findings provide guidelines for nurses to communicate with patients with cancer verbally in a Chinese cultural context, and outline strategies for communication to meet psychologic needs of patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • China
  • Communication*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morale
  • Negativism
  • Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Neoplasms / nursing
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transcultural Nursing
  • Visitors to Patients / psychology