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Exploring perceptions of social support among individuals with cancer in eThekwini, South Africa.

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The study aimed to explore the perceptions of social support among individuals with cancer in eThekwini, South Africa. However, studies that qualitatively explore this area of study in South Africa are limited. Cancer remains a global public health problem, and it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with most cancer deaths now reportedly occurring in low-and middle- income countries. This study draws on social support theory which suggests that social support is paramount when one is going through a stressful event as it acts as a stress-buffer. In-depth interviews were conducted with twelve cancer patients and two social workers at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Mkhuhla Care Home in Durban, to gain an understanding about perceptions of social support among individuals with cancer. The study findings revealed that social support is a vital resource for individuals with cancer, and it promotes health well being. Participants expressed that cancer diagnosis was a life changing experience which did not only affected them psychologically but they also felt it was a burden on their relationships. Psychological factors such as anxiety, and depression were reported by most participants. Social support was found to come from a patient’s social network, mostly family, friends, neighbours, church, health professionals, and social media. The study highlighted that social support systems such as emotional support, informational, and tangible support play a crucial role in reducing the burden of cancer diagnosis among patients. The findings revealed that emotional, informational and tangible support were crucial in protecting patients from traumatic experiences caused by cancer diagnosis. The findings also revealed that lack of social support increases stress, and anxiety which negatively impact an individual diagnosed with cancer. The study found that cancer stigma still exists in society as some patients experienced them, and there is a lack of cancer awareness to educate people about the disease.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.