, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 749-756
Date: 15 Apr 2011

Posttraumatic growth after cancer: the importance of health-related benefits and newfound compassion for others

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Abstract

Purpose

There is growing evidence in psycho-oncology that people can experience posttraumatic growth (PTG), or positive life change, in addition to the distress that may occur after a cancer diagnosis. Many studies utilise existing PTG measures that were designed for general trauma experiences, such as the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory. However, such inventories may not take into account life changes associated with a crisis specifically in a health-related context.

Method

The current study presents a mixed method exploration of the post-diagnosis experience of cancer survivors (N = 209) approximately 3 years after diagnosis.

Results

Quantitative and qualitative assessment of PTG showed that appreciating life was the most salient area of positive life change for cancer survivors. The results also revealed that in addition to several PTG domains captured by existing quantitative PTG measures, further positive life changes were reported, including compassion for others and health-related life changes.

Conclusions

These domains of PTG highlight the unique context of a cancer diagnosis and the potential underestimation of positive life change by existing inventories. Further research is warranted that is directed towards designing a context-specific PTG measure for cancer survivors.