Cancer-related identity and positive affect in survivors of prostate cancer

J Cancer Surviv. 2007 Mar;1(1):44-8. doi: 10.1007/s11764-007-0005-2.


Introduction: Despite a shift in the cancer culture and language used to describe individuals diagnosed with this disease, the extent to which individuals with cancer adopt a particular cancer-related identity and the impact of these identities in relation to their well-being is virtually unknown.

Materials and methods: Using a cross-sectional study design and a metropolitan tumor registry, a mail questionnaire to examine post-treatment quality of life was sent to prostate cancer (PCa) survivors. The sample consisted of 490 PCa survivors, ranging in age from 49-88 (M = 69.7; SD = 7.8), one to eight years after diagnosis. The outcome measure used in these analyses was the PANAS to assess positive and negative affect.

Results: The most frequently reported cancer-related identity was "someone who has had PCa" (57%). The least reported self view was "victim" (1%). Twenty-six percent of men self-identified as "survivors" while 6% thought of themselves as "cancer conquerors." Only 9% self-identified as a "patient." Multivariate analyses, adjusted for potential confounders, show respondents who identified themselves as "survivors" or "cancer conquerors" reported significantly higher scores on positive affect than men who self-identified as "patients" (p < .001).

Conclusions: Although the majority of respondents identified themselves as "someone who has had cancer," identifying as a "survivor" or "someone who has conquered cancer" appears to have adaptive value for positive mood.

Implications for cancer survivors: Those who perceive themselves as survivors of prostate cancer may derive some benefit in well-being associated with this self assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Registries
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*