Illness centrality, disclosure, and well-being in younger and middle-aged adult cancer survivors


Crystal L. Park, Psychology Department, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA (e-mail:


Objectives. Cancer survivorship is often linked with identity reconstruction, and the extent to which individuals identify with their cancer experience may be an important aspect of their adjustment to longer-term cancer survivorship. However, little is known about the extent to which cancer is central to one's identity or the relations of centrality of cancer to identity with well-being. Further, the impact of cancer identity centrality might be moderated by the extent to which survivors openly disclose their survivorship status. The present study examined centrality of cancer and well-being along with the potential moderation effect of disclosure.

Design and methods. Using a cross-sectional design, 167 participants (cancer survivors aged 18–55, diagnosed 1–3 years prior) completed measures of demographics, centrality of cancer identity, openness/disclosure, and well-being (including health-related quality of life [HRQOL], positive and negative affect, intrusive thoughts, life satisfaction, and post-traumatic growth).

Results. Cancer identity centrality was fairly low while disclosure/openness was fairly high. In regression analyses, centrality was adversely related to most measures of well-being, except unrelated to physical HRQOL and post-traumatic growth. Openness/disclosure about cancer survivorship status was positively related to most measures of well-being but did not moderate relationships between centrality and well-being.

Conclusions. These findings support the notion that both cancer identity centrality and openness/disclosure are important aspects of the cancer survivorship experience that may impact well-being and warrant further research.