Paper in Australian Psychologist
- Costa, D.S.J., Mercieca-Bebber, R., Rutherford, C., Gabb, L., King, M.T. (2016). The Impact of Cancer on Psychological and Social Outcomes. Australian Psychologist, 51 (2) pp. 89-99.
Cancer is now the biggest cause of mortality worldwide. Although the debilitating physical symptoms of cancer have long been known, the psychological and social impacts of cancer have become the subject of examination only relatively recently. The psychological outcomes that have been examined are primarily negative emotional variables, e.g., anxiety, but emerging research has focused on positive emotional variables, e.g., post-traumatic growth, or cognitive outcomes. In this article, we provide a synthesis of reviews that have addressed the psychosocial impact of cancer. The framework for this synthesis is provided by a conceptualisation in which the presence of cancer impacts on psychosocial outcomes either directly or via mediating variables, including physical symptoms and treatment, and that this effect may be moderated by several variables, some characteristic of the person with cancer (demographic or personality-related variables) and some characteristic of their environment (social support and medical variables). We also briefly examine the impact of cancer on the broader family unit following cancer diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and bereavement. We conclude that the heterogeneity of the cancer experience highlights the need for theoretically driven research and consistency in measurement approaches to determine mechanisms by which cancer exerts influence on psychosocial outcomes. This would allow development and delivery of targeted psychological interventions and a clearer delineation of the roles of the various parties, including clinical psychologists, family members and policymakers.