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Cancer-related identity and positive affect in survivors of prostate cancer



Despite a shift in the cancer culture and language used to describe individuals diagnosed with this disease, the extent to which individuals with cancer adopt a particular cancer-related identity and the impact of these identities in relation to their well-being is virtually unknown.

Materials and methods

Using a cross-sectional study design and a metropolitan tumor registry, a mail questionnaire to examine post-treatment quality of life was sent to prostate cancer (PCa) survivors. The sample consisted of 490 PCa survivors, ranging in age from 49–88 (M = 69.7; SD = 7.8), one to eight years after diagnosis. The outcome measure used in these analyses was the PANAS to assess positive and negative affect.


The most frequently reported cancer-related identity was “someone who has had PCa” (57%). The least reported self view was “victim” (1%). Twenty-six percent of men self-identified as “survivors” while 6% thought of themselves as “cancer conquerors.” Only 9% self-identified as a “patient.” Multivariate analyses, adjusted for potential confounders, show respondents who identified themselves as “survivors” or “cancer conquerors” reported significantly higher scores on positive affect than men who self-identified as “patients” (p < .001).


Although the majority of respondents identified themselves as “someone who has had cancer,” identifying as a “survivor” or “someone who has conquered cancer” appears to have adaptive value for positive mood.

Implications for cancer survivors

Those who perceive themselves as survivors of prostate cancer may derive some benefit in well-being associated with this self assessment.

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The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, and endorsement by the National Cancer Institute and University of Connecticut is not intended nor should be inferred.


This study was supported by the National Institute of Aging, 1-R0317728 to the University of Connecticut (T. O. Blank, PI).

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Correspondence to Keith M. Bellizzi.

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Bellizzi, K.M., Blank, T.O. Cancer-related identity and positive affect in survivors of prostate cancer. J Cancer Surviv 1, 44–48 (2007).

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  • Prostate cancer
  • Positive and negative affect
  • Identity