Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 565–577 | Cite as

Communication avoidance, coping and psychological distress of women with breast cancer

  • Yisha YuEmail author
  • Kerry A. Sherman


This study examined the relationship between communication avoidance of cancer-related topics with psychological distress, and the mediating role of coping strategies, in women with breast cancer. Women diagnosed with breast cancer (N = 338) completed an online survey including measures of self- and perceived-partner communication avoidance, psychological distress (depression, anxiety and stress), and coping strategies. Linear regression analyses indicated that women’s and perceived-partner’s communication avoidance was associated with anxiety, depression, and stress in the cancer-affected women. Bootstrapping analyses showed significant mediation effects of self- and perceived-partner communication avoidance on all distress outcomes through greater disengagement coping, and on anxiety through lower engagement coping. Emotionally valenced topics (i.e., disease progression and sexuality) were most avoided and practical issues were least avoided. Enhancing couple communication about cancer and women’s adaptive coping skills (i.e., discourage use of disengagement coping strategies and promote use of engagement coping strategies) may be important targets for psychosocial intervention.


Breast cancer Communication Couples Adjustment Coping 



The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia.

Conflict of interest

Yisha Yu and Kerry A. Sherman declared 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 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Centre for Emotional HealthMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Westmead Breast Cancer InstituteWestmead HospitalSydneyAustralia

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