Expressive Writing in Patients Diagnosed with Cancer

  • Arden Corter
  • Keith J. Petrie


The diagnosis of cancer forces considerable psychological adjustment and emotional upheaval on patients. Many patients find the expression of negative emotions difficult or have little access to a supportive social support network. In this chapter, we review recent evidence on whether the emotional writing paradigm developed by Pennebaker and colleagues can improve psychological and health outcomes in cancer patients. The review suggests that writing is well accepted by patients and many seem to gain some personal benefit from emotional writing. The review suggests that emotional writing with breast and prostate cancer patients reduces physical symptoms, medical care use, and increases in perceived social support. The few studies that have been done in other cancer types are consistent with these findings. No benefits have been shown for emotional distress or improved survival. There are a number of methodological issues related to the type of cancer, the timing of writing, and personality factors that may moderate the effects of emotional writing and make work in this area challenging. The internet and new ways patients connect in electronic media has potential to offer researchers new ways of looking at the relationship between writing and health outcomes in cancer.


Breast Cancer Prostate Cancer Patient Benefit Finding Expressive Writing Intervention Group Patient 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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