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Survivor centrality among breast cancer survivors: implications for well-being.

journal contribution
posted on 01.05.2011, 00:00 by Vicki HelgesonVicki Helgeson

OBJECTIVE: The goal of this research was to examine the extent to which 10-year breast cancer survivors integrated cancer into their self-concept (i.e. survivor centrality), identify predictors of survivor centrality, and determine the relation of survivor centrality to well-being.

METHODS: Breast cancer survivors (n=240) were interviewed 10 years following the initial diagnosis. They completed measures of survivor centrality, illness valence (i.e. positive or negative views of illness), and well-being (positive and negative affect, mental and physical functioning, psychological distress, benefit finding).

RESULTS: There were few predictors of the kinds of women who were more likely to integrate breast cancer into their self-concepts, but survivor centrality was related to engaging in behaviors that suggested survivorship was relevant to women's daily lives, such as becoming involved in breast cancer activities. Survivor centrality was related to three markers of negative psychological well-being: more negative affect, poorer mental functioning, and greater psychological distress. However, in the case of negative affect and psychological distress, this relation was moderated by illness valence, such that survivor centrality was only related to negative psychological well-being when the illness was viewed in less positive terms.

CONCLUSIONS: Women vary in the extent to which they define themselves in terms of the breast cancer experience. Survivor centrality in and of itself is not always indicative of adjustment to disease. When women have a more negative view of being a breast cancer survivor, survivor centrality is more likely to signify potential problems.