Post-traumatic growth in breast cancer: how and when do distress and stress contribute?

Ann Marie Groarke*, Ruth Curtis, Jenny M. Groarke, Michael J. Hogan, Andrea Gibbons, Michael Kerin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


While several theoretical models provide explanation for the genesis and development of post‐traumatic growth (PTG) in the aftermath of stressful events, empirical evidence regarding the predictors and consequences of PTG in breast cancer patients in active treatment and early survivorship is inconclusive. This study, therefore, examines the role of distress and stress as predictors and outcomes of PTG in women with breast cancer over an 18‐month period.

These effects are tested in two structural equation models that track pathways of PTG in a sample of 253 recently diagnosed women. Questionnaires were completed at diagnosis and at 4 follow‐up time points assessing cancer‐specific stress (Impact of Events Scale), global stress (Perceived Stress Scale), and depression and anxiety (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale). Post‐traumatic growth (Silver Lining Questionnaire) was assessed at follow‐up time points.

Cancer‐specific stress was related to higher PTG concurrently and longitudinally. Anxiety was related concurrently to higher PTG, but overall general distress had minimal impact on PTG. Global stress was inversely related to PTG. Positive growth at 6 months was associated with subsequent reduction in stress.

This study showing that early stage higher cancer‐specific stress and anxiety were related to positive growth supports the idea that struggle with a challenging illness may be instrumental in facilitating PTG, and findings show positive implications of PTG for subsequent adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-974
Number of pages8
Issue number7
Early online date08 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • breast cancer
  • cancer
  • oncology
  • post-traumatic growth
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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