Psychooncology. 2020 Oct 16. doi: 10.1002/pon.5574. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: Mobility disability affects approximately 13.7% of the United States population, representing the most common disability type. People with mobility disability experience disparities in cancer screening and higher prevalence of some cancers compared to the general population. We sought to explore the attitudes of people with pre-existing mobility disability about their cancer diagnosis.
METHODS: We conducted open-ended individual interviews with 20 participants who had pre-existing mobility disability requiring use of an assistive device or assistance with performance of activities of daily living (ADLs), subsequently diagnosed with cancer (excluding skin cancers). Interviews reached data saturation and were transcribed verbatim for conventional content analysis.
RESULTS: Concerns coalesced around three major themes: sense of control over health conditions, seeking support, and recommendations for other people with disability seeking cancer care. Some participants described feeling a loss of control over their cancer diagnosis that they did not have regarding disability, while others suggested that disability presented greater challenges than their cancer diagnosis. Participants described seeking various forms of support, including emotional support (e.g., from friends and family), informational support (e.g., recommendations for seeking care), instrumental support (e.g., ADLs), and appraisal (e.g., self-reflection of personal qualities for fighting cancer). They provided recommendations, highlighting importance of self-advocacy and being attuned to changes in health status.
CONCLUSIONS: We found that people with pre-existing mobility disability and cancer express complex attitudes towards their cancer diagnosis. Findings may inform efforts to improve quality of relevant supports to meet the psychosocial needs of this population.