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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1989 Dec;57(6):692-7.

Controlled prospective longitudinal study of women with cancer: II. Psychological outcomes.


The incidence and etiology of major life difficulties for women with survivable cancer were studied. Women with early stage cancer (n = 65) were assessed after their diagnosis but prior to treatment and then reassessed at 4, 8, and 12 months posttreatment. Two matched comparison groups, women diagnosed and treated for benign disease (n = 22) and healthy women (n = 60), were also assessed longitudinally. Results for four life areas are reported: (a) The emotional response to the life-threatening diagnosis and anticipation of treatment was characterized by depressed, anxious, and confused moods, whereas the response for women with benign disease was anxious only. In both cases, these responses were transitory and resolved posttreatment. (b) There was no evidence for a higher incidence of relationship dissolution of poorer marital adjustment; however, 30% of the women treated for disease reported that their sexual partners may have had some difficulty in reaching orgasm (i.e., delayed ejaculation) after the subjects' treatment. (c) There was no evidence for impaired social adjustment. (d) Women treated for cancer retained their employment and their occupations; however, their involvement (e.g., hours worked per week) was significantly reduced during recovery. These data and those in a companion report (Andersen, Anderson, & deProsse, 1989) suggest "islands" of significant life disruption following cancer; however, these difficulties do not appear to portend global adjustment vulnerability.

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