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.