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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • posttraumatic growth;
  • survivors;
  • psychosocial

Abstract

Background

Reports of ‘growth’ following cancer diagnosis and treatment are common and are considered evidence for the transformative potential of the cancer experience. However, reports of growth are also common in the general population. This study sought to identify the unique, ‘value-added’ with regard to the nature and magnitude of growth represented by the cancer experience.

Methods

Lung cancer (LC) survivors (n = 190; mean 15 months post-diagnosis) completed the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), reporting changes occurring ‘as a result of having cancer’. Community-based, healthy controls (HC) (n = 152) completed the PTGI, reporting changes occurring ‘in the past year’.

Results

Reports of growth were common in both the LC and HC groups. However, the LC group reported greater total PTGI scores (effect size (ES) = 0.39 SD) and greater growth for 3 of 5 subscales (ESs 0.34–0.48 SD). The LC group was more likely to report any degree of change for 11 of 21 PTGI items (mean odds ratio (OR) across 21 items = 1.92) and were more likely to report ‘moderate’ to ‘very great’ change for eight of 21 items (mean OR = 1.75). The LC group was more likely to report growth in the areas of social relationships and appreciation for life.

Conclusions

In sum, the growth evidenced by LC survivors after diagnosis quantitatively and qualitatively differs from growth reported by the general population over a similar period. Estimates of the value-added by the cancer experience suggest a magnitude representing at least the lower range of clinical significance. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.