Prevalence and frequency of self-management strategies among female cancer survivors: the neglected roles of social relations and conscious living



To assess prevalence and frequency of use of self-management strategies among female cancer survivors and to empirically identify categories of self-management.


Female cancer survivors (N=673, mean age 51 years; >90% with breast cancer; M=5 years since diagnosis) completed an Internet survey indicating the frequency (never to very often) with which they had employed each strategy since diagnosis. The survey included commonly assessed self-management strategies, such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), religious practices, and exercise. Additionally we assessed the use of further strategies identified from recommendations of cancer survivors shared in Internet forums.


A principal component analysis yielded five categories: More Conscious Living, Turning to Family/Friends, CAM, Religious/Spiritual Practices, and Exercise. Prevalence rates of commonly measured strategies like CAM, Religious Practices, and Exercise were similar to previous studies. Considering frequency of use, however, revealed that only few participants reported frequent use of these strategies (<10%). In contrast, about half of the women (>50%) reported Turning to Family/Friends and engaging in More Conscious Living strategies (very) often.


Relying on prevalence assessments of commonly investigated behaviors such as CAM or exercise may overestimate their use among cancer survivors. Cancer survivors engage in a wide range of self-management strategies. Encouraging living more consciously and cultivating social relations might be of greater relevance compared with CAM use or exercise.

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Preparation of this article was supported by grants from the German Research Foundation Excellence Initiative Guest Professor Program, Heidelberg University (G.W.), and the German Research Foundation Excellence Initiative International Mobility Program, Heidelberg University (M.S.).

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Correspondence to Monika Sieverding.

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The study was approved by the ethics commission of the Faculty of Behavioural and Cultural Studies of Heidelberg University (AZ Siev 2018/2-1).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Sieverding, M., Ungar, N., Fleischmann, A. et al. Prevalence and frequency of self-management strategies among female cancer survivors: the neglected roles of social relations and conscious living. Support Care Cancer 28, 607–616 (2020) doi:10.1007/s00520-019-04790-5

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  • Self-management strategies
  • Female cancer survivors
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • Conscious living
  • Social relations