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Release: Sept. 27, 2002

Zickmund awarded grant to study gender-specific reactions to cancer

A University of Iowa scientist has been awarded a $35,000 grant to study gender-specific reactions to cancer.

The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, a national organization that promotes education and equity for women, awarded the grant.

Susan Zickmund, Ph.D., UI assistant research scientist in internal medicine, biomedical ethics and medical humanities, will investigate how men and women react emotionally to cancer and cancer treatment.

"If we can discover something that is unique to men and women as they go through a cancer experience, health care providers can anticipate future needs of these patients," Zickmund said.

Zickmund's study will explore three main areas, using surveys and interviews of patients with non-gender-specific cancer (not ovarian or prostate cancers). Zickmund will look at cancer's effect on anxiety, depression and quality of life in these women and men. She also will explore the impact of body image and familial relationships on patients' reactions.

Initial patient interviews suggest that some emotional burdens of cancer for women often stem from changes in physical appearance, such as hair loss or scars from treatment. Men often feel a loss of control.

"By exploring the interviews done with hundreds of cancer patients, I believe we will be able to see how the lived experiences of men and women play out in the context of their daily lives," Zickmund said.

Zickmund is the director of the Patient Narrative Study in the UI department of internal medicine. The patient narrative study investigates the psychosocial impact of chronic disease on patients' self-image and relationships. In addition, she explores comparative social issues related to quality of life and anxiety and depression as experienced by patients with hepatitis C, congestive heart failure and cancer.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.