Background: Two main psychologic coping styles for dealing with cancer and other health threats have been identified: monitoring (attending to) or blunting (avoiding) potentially threatening information. This article reviews results and implications from this research relevant to cancer screening and management.
Methods: The Monitor-Blunter Style Scale has been used extensively to assess and categorize patients with regard to these coping styles to predict their differential responses to various cancer-related screening and management regimens.
Results: Patients characterized by a monitoring coping style generally are more concerned and distressed about their cancer risk, experience greater treatment side effects, are more knowledgeable about their medical situation, and are less satisfied with and more demanding about the psychosocial aspects of their care. They also prefer a more passive role in clinical decision making, are more adherent to medical recommendations, and manifest greater psychologic morbidity in response to cancer-related threats.
Conclusions: Patients fare better (psychologically, behaviorally, and physiologically) when the information they receive about their medical condition is tailored to their own coping styles: generally those with a monitoring style tend to do better when given more information, and those with a blunting style do better with less information. However, patients with a monitoring style who are pessimistic about their future or who face long term, intensely threatening, and uncontrollable medical situations may require not just more information, but also, more emotional support to help them deal with their disease.