Anticipatory Coping

Marie Borsellino

Michelle M. Young

hair, chemotherapy
CJON 2011, 15(3), 311-315. DOI: 10.1188/11.CJON.311-315

Many women consider hair loss to be one of the most difficult and feared side effects of chemotherapy treatments. On learning they will likely lose their hair, women immediately begin anticipating the event and its impact on themselves and others. Anticipation of an unwanted event can lead to greater anxiety, fear, or depression, particularly if women see or find no options for gaining some sense of control. Anticipatory coping is the process of anticipation and preparation for an expected altered appearance. By researching options, making deliberate choices, and taking specific actions to determine their appearance without hair, women gain a greater sense of control of their changing appearance. This greater sense of control may ease or lessen feelings of fear and depression and help women to take control of other aspects of their lives that contribute to a greater quality of life during cancer treatment. Oncology nurses are in a unique position to help women turn their anxiety about hair loss into an anticipatory coping process, one that increases women's sense of control over some of the outward changes taking place in their bodies and empowers them to make proactive choices regarding their overall response to cancer.

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