Many Ovarian Cancer Patients Use Humor to Cope

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, including former OCRF grantee Stephen Rose, MD, conducted a qualitative research study looking at how patients with recurrent ovarian cancer experience humor to gain insight into the feasibility of using humor as a “therapeutic adjunct.”

The study, which was published in the March 2013 issue of the International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer, found that most patients used humor to cope with cancer and felt that humor alleviated their anxiety. The use of humor by physicians and nurses was perceived as appropriate and positive. A previous relationship with a physician was often felt necessary before the use of humor. Humor was often perceived not only in traditional jokes but was also found in humorous anecdotes from the caregiver’s life outside of medicine.

This study revealed that humor is an often used coping mechanism for women with recurrent ovarian cancer and subjectively helps alleviate anxiety. The use of humor by physicians was found to be universally perceived as appropriate and positive. The waiting area seems to be a place where humorous experiences would be welcomed. These findings provide additional insight into the role that humor plays in the lives of patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

Rose SL, Spencer RJ, Rausch MM. The use of humor in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer: a phenomenological study. Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2013 May;23(4):775-9. doi: 10.1097/IGC.0b013e31828addd5. PubMed PMID: 23552803.