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J Health Psychol. 2001 Sep;6(5):511-21. doi: 10.1177/135910530100600505.

Illness Identity and the Self-regulatory Model in Recovery from Early Stage Gynaecological Cancer.

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  • 1Centre for Health Psychology, Psychology Division, Staffordshire University, UK.


Women in recovery from early stage gynaecological cancer have extremely good survival and low recurrence rates. Despite this, women continue to feel vulnerable to cancer recurrence for years after treatment. Semi-structured interviews were utilized to explore the factors involved in recovery from gynaecological cancer. This article argues that the illness identity of gynaecological cancer perpetuates a vulnerability to cancer recurrence. The absence of self-diagnosis prior to medical diagnosis is important in the formation of gynaecological cancer illness identity. A lack of self-diagnosis may be due to the 'normalization' of initial symptomatology. It is suggested that illness identity is responsible for maintaining fears of symptom-free cancer recurrence. The self-regulatory model is employed to explore this process, looking in particular at the reinforcement of reassurance needs.

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