Increased Social Support Drives Positive Personal Growth Following Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Even though being diagnosed with cancer is a very traumatic and stressful experience, researchers have observed positive psychological shifts in Women following breast cancer diagnosis.

A new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre has found that there also can be unexpected benefits. “Many women who have breast cancer often experience distress but sometimes are surprised that they also may experience a variety of positive outcomes following diagnosis,” said Suzanne Danhauer, Ph.D., associate professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. The study, which was published in the journal psycho-oncology’s online issue, looked at how 653 women’s post-traumatic growth (PTG) changed over the course of two years.

What is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?

Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) is a favourable psychological shift brought on by extreme difficulty in one’s daily life. Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is when someone has been affected by a traumatic experience and finds a way to take new meaning from their experiences to live their lives, in a different way, than prior to the trauma.

Enhanced interpersonal relationships, a deeper appreciation for life, a feeling of increased personal power, increased spirituality, and changes in life priorities or goals, are some of the frequently reported effects of PTG. PTG can manifest in a variety of ways, including the discovery of latent potential and ability, gaining the courage to take on new challenges, and feeling stronger. A sense of mindfulness and thankfulness for life and the present moment as well as a focus on the connections that should be prioritized—typically those that the person feels were there for them during tough times—tend to result from it.

PTGI scores increased over time within the first few months following diagnosis

participants completed surveys within eight months of diagnosis and six, twelve, and eighteen months after that. The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), a tool for evaluating good outcomes reported by people who have endured incredibly stressful or traumatic events, was used to evaluate the survey data. Total PTGI scores, according to the researchers, grew with time, primarily in the initial few months after diagnosis. Education level, length of time since diagnosis, baseline degree of illness intrusiveness, gains in social support, spirituality, usage of active-adaptive coping mechanisms, and mental health were all linked to higher PTGI scores. “Our findings suggest that there are women who see a variety of positive changes during and after breast cancer treatment,” Danhauer said. “Our study showed just how common it is for women to talk about the good things that have happened in their lives because of this illness, and it doesn’t seem to be related to how optimistic a person is or not.”

Increased amount of social support was associated with more post-traumatic growth
The study also revealed that these women’s post-traumatic growth was related to their level of social support, which was higher. “Increased resources clearly help patients process what they are dealing with and feel supported, rather than feeling like they can’t talk about their illness,” Danhauer said. “For doctors and other health care providers, being open to hearing about what their patients are experiencing, including distress and unexpected positive outcomes, can be very beneficial.”

Story Source:
Materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center; https://www.healthline.comNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Suzanne C. Danhauer, L. Douglas Case, Richard Tedeschi, Greg Russell, Tanya Vishnevsky, Kelli Triplett, Edward H. Ip, Nancy E. Avis. Predictors of posttraumatic growth in women with breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/pon.3298

Page citation:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Positive personal growth following breast cancer diagnosis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2013. <>.

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