Project ID: 2020_009_RUD_01

About the project

The study involved having cancer survivors write about their experience of cancer, such as the moment they were diagnosed, their experience of treatment, and what role they had felt cancer played in their lives.

What were the results of this project?

The study found that participants who described their experience of cancer in a highly ‘integrated’ manner experienced significantly less depression, anxiety and stress, and slightly less fear of recurrence, and slightly more satisfaction with life. An ‘integrated’ cancer narrative was one that explained the role of cancer on one’s future plans and visions, explained the role of cancer in changing one’s beliefs about the world and themselves, showed how one’s identity changed from the cancer experience, and had explained the meaning of the cancer in the context of one’s broader life. Importantly, this study demonstrated that more so than simply finding benefit from the experience of cancer, it is the ability to clearly express the role of cancer on one’s life that may impact the mental health of cancer survivors.

This study showed that the way breast cancer survivors create stories about their cancer experience is related to their psychological well-being. This study stresses the potential importance for allowing breast cancer survivors to make meaning from their experience of cancer, and for supporting this process through interactions with healthcare providers and clinical interventions.

The researcher: Michael Zhang, Dr Claudia Rutherford

This study was conducted by Michael Zhang in partial fulfilment for honours in Psychology.

This study was supervised by Dr Claudia Rutherford.

Who was the project for?

This project was recruiting people who had had a diagnosis of breast cancer and had completed treatment at least one prior to recruitment.

Where was the project conducted?

This project was conducted by the University of Sydney. The questionnaire component of the project was conducted online.

What publications were achieved as a result of this project?

At the present stage, there are no immediate plans to publish the results of the study in a journal.