Communication avoidance, coping and psychological distress of women with breast cancer

J Behav Med. 2015 Jun;38(3):565-77. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9636-3. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


This study examined the relationship between communication avoidance of cancer-related topics with psychological distress, and the mediating role of coping strategies, in women with breast cancer. Women diagnosed with breast cancer (N = 338) completed an online survey including measures of self- and perceived-partner communication avoidance, psychological distress (depression, anxiety and stress), and coping strategies. Linear regression analyses indicated that women's and perceived-partner's communication avoidance was associated with anxiety, depression, and stress in the cancer-affected women. Bootstrapping analyses showed significant mediation effects of self- and perceived-partner communication avoidance on all distress outcomes through greater disengagement coping, and on anxiety through lower engagement coping. Emotionally valenced topics (i.e., disease progression and sexuality) were most avoided and practical issues were least avoided. Enhancing couple communication about cancer and women's adaptive coping skills (i.e., discourage use of disengagement coping strategies and promote use of engagement coping strategies) may be important targets for psychosocial intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Australia
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / psychology*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires