Emotional specificities of autobiographical memory after breast cancer diagnosis

Conscious Cogn. 2015 Sep;35:42-52. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2015.04.016. Epub 2015 May 16.


Cancer involves stressful events. One aspect of cognition that is impacted by stress is episodic autobiographical memory (EAM). EAM is intimately linked to self-representation. Some studies have revealed impairment of EAM in patients with breast cancer in remission. Yet, these studies failed to differentiate between the influence of adjuvant treatments and that of psychosocial factors. We therefore assessed the psychological impact of breast cancer diagnosis on EAM and self-representation profiles prior to any adjuvant treatment. Patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer (n=31) and women without any history of cancer (n=49) were compared on state anxiety, EAM and its emotional characteristics, and self-representations. The most anxious patients retrieved fewer emotional details for memories than the controls, and had lower self-representation scores than the least anxious patients, who had no deficits in emotional detail retrieval. Our results revealed distinct EAM profiles for patients, reflecting two contrasting modes of coping with breast cancer.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Breast cancer; Period of diagnosis; Self-representations; State anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept