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The Intersection of Information Behavior and Coping Among Women Undergoing Breast Lump Diagnosis

Ellen Rubenstein

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Health-related information seeking is associated with many factors, including demographics, prior personal experience with health issues, and personal style of information seeking. Individuals faced with potentially life-threatening health conditions often have different needs for information depending on the ways in which they perceive and cope with stressful situations. This preliminary study examined the information behavior of women between the discovery of a lump in the breast and a definitive diagnosis (e.g., whether the lump is malignant or benign). During this period women experience considerable anxiety and uncertainty, which influences the types of information sought and the ways in which information mediates coping and social support. A number of studies have investigated coping strategies and uncertainty management either during this time period or during particular phases within the period, but only a few have integrated coping and uncertainty with information behavior. This study was a retrospective inquiry into the experiences of affected women, the goal of which was to identify common themes in how information behavior interacted with coping strategies. Women were recruited through an online listserv associated with a large Midwestern university. The study comprised two phases: (a) an online survey of 54 women who had undergone breast biopsies within the previous five years, and (b) in-depth, semi-structured interviews of ten women drawn from the survey respondents. Findings showed that the experience of women undergoing breast lump diagnosis represents a multi-faceted spectrum of information needs and information behavior, which influences and is influenced by the ways in which women cope with and understand their personal situations.

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