Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 241–253 | Cite as

Personal responsibility, regret, and medical stigma among individuals living with lung cancer

  • Kevin R. Criswell
  • Jason E. Owen
  • Andrea A. Thornton
  • Annette L. Stanton


Understanding the degree to which adults with lung cancer perceive personal responsibility for their disease, personal regret for actions that may have contributed to lung cancer, and potential stigmatization from others is important, because these perceptions and experiences may be linked with treatment nonadherence, feelings of isolation, avoidance of healthcare providers, and poor quality of life. The purpose of this study was to evaluate rates and intensity of these types of experiences and to characterize the extent to which they are linked with smoking status and psychological adjustment in those living with lung cancer. Adults with lung cancer (N = 213) were recruited from two major cancer centers to complete a mail survey. Perceived responsibility was frequent in those who had ever smoked (74–80 %), whereas regret and feelings of stigmatization were less frequent. When present, however, personal regret and stigmatization were associated with adverse psychological outcomes, particularly for never smokers. These results are consistent with the theory of stereotype threat and have clinical implications for management of people with lung cancer.


Lung cancer Stigma Smoking Mental health Distress 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Kevin R. Criswell, Jason E. Owen, Andrea A. Thornton and Annette L. Stanton declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin R. Criswell
    • 1
  • Jason E. Owen
    • 2
  • Andrea A. Thornton
    • 3
  • Annette L. Stanton
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA
  2. 2.National Center for PTSDVeterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  3. 3.Neuropsychiatric InstituteUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry/Biobehavioral Sciences and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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