The goal of the proposed research training plan is to build a foundation of knowledge and skills for the applicant's program of research which is focused on improving coping and adjustment to breast cancer in marital couples. Diagnosis of breast cancer and its subsequent treatment place enormous challenges on both the survivor as well as the partner. The greatest challenges however, may surface after treatment when the dyad is left to deal with challenges that emerge as a result of both diagnosis and treatment. The survivor and partner often serve as a source of emotional strength for each other, and this emotional support is typically delivered through verbal and nonverbal communication. Communication enhances each partner's ability to cognitively process the traumatic event (cancer). However, a partner also has the capacity to hinder cognitively processing the trauma of cancer by limiting discussion of cancer, minimizing concerns, not understanding, and avoiding the other spouse. The Social Cognitive Processing Theory (SCPT) will guide this study of how perceived social support and constraints from a spouse, impact depressive symptoms, fear of recurrence, posttraumatic growth, and wellbeing for each partner. This study will use the SCPT to model interpersonal factors and cognitive processing as they relate to psychological distress and overall QOL in both survivors and their partners. To advance our understanding of all these relationships, structural equation modeling will be used. A secondary data analysis of 227 younger breast cancer survivors (18-45 years), 3-8 years post diagnosis and their partners will be conducted.
Good communication between breast cancer survivors and their partners is essential as they work through unresolved fears, thoughts, and feelings about the breast cancer even years after the diagnosis. When either verbal or nonverbal communication is constrained, coping can be compromised with resulting impact on psychological distress and overall quality of life. This constraint can by perceived by either the survivor or partner but has yet to be studied in long-term survivors and their partners.