Stigmatizing and negative attitudes in oncology in Russia: prevalence, information aspects and psychological care based on a sociological study

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BACKGROUND: In Russia, the cancer stigma is quite widespread. At best, it is expressed in pity, at worst — in fear and alienation, which puts an even heavier burden on the patient, who not only faces experiences associated with treatment and the disease itself, but also feels guilty and ashamed. The study considered certain aspects of this stigma: the concealment of the diagnosis, the attitude to body changes, the confrontation with the patient’s new identification, the degree of stigma control by an individual. Additionally, the stigmatization of the need for psychological care which is necessary for cancer patients, as well as their relatives, leads to additional emotional distress. In order to effectively carry out informational and educational work, one needs to understand stigmatizing attitudes in general public and social media.

OBJECTIVE: The goal was to analyze the stigmatizing and negative cancer-related attitudes in the public consciousness and social media in Russia, as well as to understand the related stigma of the need for mental care.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: An all-Russian survey on the stigmatization of cancer and psychological care was conducted on a sample of cancer patients (n=73), close relatives of cancer patients (n=426), and respondents who have no experience with cancer (n=513). Additionally, we carried out a qualitative and quantitative analysis of users’ messages in social media using keywords, which potentially reflect the cancer-related experience of the author or their relatives (a random subsample of 400 messages from an initial sample of about 150 thousand messages).

RESULTS: The article addresses the issue of stigmatizing cancer in modern Russian society from the concept of I. Goffman. A fairly widespread prevalence of negative and stigmatizing attitudes towards oncological diseases and professional psychological assistance in modern Russian society and in the media were revealed. We found differences among the subsamples in a number of stigmatizing attitudes, as well as the relationship of adherence to them with the age and gender of the respondents. Analysis of social media revealed their contribution to the cancer context as suffering pain, treatment, and financial burden.

CONCLUSION: The shown trends, along with gender and age differences, require differentiated information and educational work with each of the population groups.

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About the authors

Anna A. Dreneva

Research Institute for Healthcare Organization and Medical Management

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3880-5202
SPIN-code: 8807-1295

Cand. Sci. (Psychol.)

Russian Federation, Moscow

Alexandr V. Pravednikov

Research Institute for Healthcare Organization and Medical Management

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2553-2359
SPIN-code: 4544-5280

Cand. Sci. (Soc.)

Russian Federation, Moscow

Darya P. Chistyakova

Research Institute for Healthcare Organization and Medical Management

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8729-9898
SPIN-code: 8799-0909
Russian Federation, Moscow

Olga E. Goldman

Project SO-deistvie (CO-operation)

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2490-1319
Russian Federation, Moscow

Ignat V. Bogdan

Research Institute for Healthcare Organization and Medical Management

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7002-1646
SPIN-code: 1891-5081

Cand. Sci. (Polit.)

Russian Federation, Moscow


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