Coping in long-term survivors of childhood cancer: relations to psychological distress

Authors

  • Kerstin Wenninger,

    Corresponding author
    • University Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Almut Helmes,

    1. University of Freiburg, Department of Psychology, Rehabilitation Psychology and Psychotherapy, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Jürgen Bengel,

    1. University of Freiburg, Department of Psychology, Rehabilitation Psychology and Psychotherapy, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Melchior Lauten,

    1. University Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Susanne Völkel,

    1. University Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine II, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetology, Freiburg, Germany
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  • Charlotte M. Niemeyer

    1. University Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Freiburg, Germany
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Correspondence to: University Medical Center Freiburg, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Mathildenstrasse 1, 79106 Freiburg, Germany. E-mail: kerstin.wenninger@uniklinik-freiburg.de

Abstract

Objective

The goal of this study was to describe coping strategies and their associations with psychological distress in young adult survivors of childhood cancer.

Methods

One hundred and sixty-four childhood cancer survivors, at least 7 years after diagnosis, completed questionnaires assessing demographics, health information, psychological distress, and different ways of coping (return rate: 61%). The Brief Symptom Inventory-18 (BSI-18) and the Post-traumatic Diagnostic Scale's (PDS) eight-item short form were used to measure psychological distress. Coping was assessed with the Cognitive Control Strategies Scale (CCSS), the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised (IPQ-R), and the White Bear Suppression Inventory (WBSI).

Results

Higher levels of distress were associated with the female sex, not being in a relationship, and with the presence of medical late effects. These predictors explained 12% of the variance in psychological distress. When coping variables were also entered into the equation, the amount of explained variance increased to 50%. The most important determinants of psychological distress in our sample were a tendency to suppress negative thoughts and a low level of optimism.

Conclusion

These results contribute to a better understanding of the correlates of difficulties in long-term psychological adjustment after childhood cancer. Cognitive strategies, which are associated with or may increase the risk for concurrent psychological distress, in specific, avoidance of negative thoughts and a lack of positive future expectations, should be addressed in psychological counseling with survivors suffering from symptoms of distress. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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