Coping responses following breast cancer diagnosis predict psychological adjustment three years later

Psychooncology. 2004 Apr;13(4):235-47. doi: 10.1002/pon.739.


The relationship between coping responses and psychological adjustment to a breast cancer diagnosis is well documented for time periods close to diagnosis. The purpose of the present study was to assess the long term association between these two variables. Fifty-five women completed measures of coping response, decisional control, frustration expression, and psychological adjustment within six months of receiving their breast cancer diagnosis. These women were contacted three years later and their psychological adjustment-as measured by the profile of mood states (POMS)-was reassessed. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed. The results showed that women who were depressed at time of treatment planning, and who responded to their cancer diagnosis with cognitive avoidance, i.e. acceptance/resignation, had significantly worse psychological adjustment three years later. Poor adjustment was significantly associated with cognitive avoidance and minimal use of approach-based coping responses. The findings suggest that women who respond to their breast cancer diagnosis with passive acceptance and resignation are at significant risk for poor long term psychological adjustment. Psychological interventions for these women should address cognitive avoidance, with the aim of fostering approach-based coping and positive well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Affect
  • Attitude to Health
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors