As National Breast Cancer Awareness month draws to a close, and the world becomes a little less pink, we share with you some positive news to help sustain the momentum until next October.
Although breast cancer is usually an extremely stressful experience for most of the 300,000 or so women in the US diagnosed each year, a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has found that there also can be unexpected benefits.
“Many women who have breast cancer often experience distress but sometimes are surprised that they also may experience a variety of positive outcomes following diagnosis,” said Suzanne Danhauer, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
The study, which is published in the current online edition of the journal Psycho-Oncology, examined change in post-traumatic growth (PTG) over two years in 653 women.
PTG is defined as the positive psychological change experienced as a result of a struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. Commonly reported aspects of PTG include enhanced interpersonal relationships, increased appreciation for life, a sense of increased personal strength, greater spirituality and changes in life priorities or goals.
Participants completed surveys within eight months of diagnosis and also six, 12 and 18 months after that. The survey results were assessed using the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) – an instrument for assessing positive outcomes reported by persons who have experienced highly stressful or traumatic events.
According to the researchers, total PTGI scores increased over time mostly within the first few months following diagnosis. Greater PTGI scores were associated with education level, longer time since diagnosis, greater baseline level of illness intrusiveness and increases in social support, spirituality, use of active-adaptive coping strategies and mental health.
“Our findings suggest that there are women who see a variety of positive changes during and after breast cancer treatment,” Danhauer said. “Our study showed just how common it is for women to talk about the good things that have happened in their lives because of this illness, and it doesn’t seem to be related to how optimistic a person is or not.” The study also showed that an increased amount of social support was associated with more post-traumatic growth in these women.
Way to go ladies. A great example of when life gives you lemons…make lemonade?!? Better yet, find somebody else whose life has given them vodka, and throw a lemon drop party.