Spouse adjustment to cancer surgery: Distress and coping responses



Although often acknowledged, the impact of the surgical treatment of cancer on the spouse of the adult cancer patient is a largely unexplored area. The present study examined distress, coping, and appraisal among spouses (N = 36) and patients (N = 43) assessed prior to and following surgery. The results indicated that at both the presurgical and postsurgical period, spouses were exhibiting significantly greater distress than patients. Surprisingly, spouses' levels of distress remained fairly constant across the presurgery to postsurgery period, while the patients distress decreased. Escape and avoidance behaviors were found to be maladaptive for spouses coping with their partners' surgical treatment. Appraisal was also found to be a critical factor in understanding individual reactions to the stress of cancer surgery. Spouses of cancer patients undergoing surgical treatment appear to be an underacknowledged population at risk.