Perceived stigmatization and its impact on quality of life - results from a large register-based study including breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer patients

BMC Cancer. 2017 Nov 9;17(1):741. doi: 10.1186/s12885-017-3742-2.


Background: To date, research on stigmatization among cancer patients and related psychosocial consequences has been scarce and mostly based on small and highly selected samples. We investigated stigmatization and its impact on quality of life among a large sample including four major tumor entities.

Methods: We assessed 858 patients with breast, colon, lung or prostate cancer from two cancer registries. Stigmatization and quality of life (QoL) was assessed with the Social Impact Scale (SIS-D) and the EORTC Quality of Life Questionnaire (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer), respectively. Group effects were analyzed via analyses of variance, relationships were investigated via Pearson's r and stepwise regression analyses.

Results: The mean age was 60.7 years, 54% were male. Across cancer sites, the dimensions of stigmatization (isolation, social rejection, financial insecurity and internalized shame) were in the lower and middle range, with the highest values found for isolation. Stigmatization was lowest among prostate cancer patients. Stigmatization predicted all five areas of QoL among breast cancer patients (p < .05), but only affected emotional functioning (p < .01) among lung cancer patients.

Conclusions: We found an inverse relationship between perceived cancer-related stigmatization and various dimensions of QoL, with variation between cancer sites. Breast cancer patients should be focused in individual therapies regarding the negative consequences accompanied by perceived stigmatization.

Keywords: Cancer; Psycho-oncology; Quality of life; Stigmatization; Survivorship.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Registries
  • Social Perception
  • Social Stigma*
  • Young Adult