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Cancer Victim Identity for Individuals with Histories of Cancer and Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • Glynnis A. McDonnell
  • Madalina Sucala
  • Rachel E. Goldsmith
  • Guy H. Montgomery
  • Julie B. Schnur
Article

Abstract

Identifying as a ‘cancer victim’ has been linked to adverse psychosocial sequelae in individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. Being a childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivor may predispose individuals towards a “victim” identity in general. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of identifying as a ‘cancer victim’ among CSA survivors who were diagnosed with cancer as adults, and to explore psychological factors associated with identification as a cancer victim. 105 adults reporting both a history of CSA and of having been diagnosed with cancer as an adult were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Variables assessed included CSA severity, abuse-related powerlessness, general mastery, and cancer victim identity. Fifty-one percent of the sample endorsed a cancer victim identity. Path analysis revealed that abuse-related powerlessness was related to decreased feelings of general mastery, which was in turn associated with cancer victim identification (x 2 = .12, DF = 1, p < .73; RMSEA = .00; SRMR = .01: Bentler CFI = 1.0). From a clinical perspective, the results suggest that increasing general mastery in CSA survivors in the cancer setting may be an important mechanism for attenuating the risk for developing a cancer victim identity and, presumably, for downstream adverse psychosocial sequelae.

Keywords

Oncology Identity Sexual abuse survivors Mastery 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by National Cancer Institute (Grant Nos. R21CA173163, R25 CA081137).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glynnis A. McDonnell
    • 1
  • Madalina Sucala
    • 2
  • Rachel E. Goldsmith
    • 2
  • Guy H. Montgomery
    • 2
  • Julie B. Schnur
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySt. John’s UniversityJamaicaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oncological SciencesIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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