Concealment of lung cancer diagnosis: prevalence and correlates

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Abstract

Background:

Lung cancer has a commonly understood behavioral etiology. Thus, lung cancer patients are often blamed for their illness and may seek to avoid this blame by concealing their diagnosis from others. This study sought to determine the prevalence of concealment and identify demographic, clinical, and psychosocial correlates of concealment among lung cancer patients.

Methods:

A sample of 117 lung cancer patients receiving chemotherapy for non-small cell or small cell lung cancer was recruited and completed self-report demographic questionnaires, a measure of diagnosis concealment designed and pilot tested for this study, and standard measures of psychosocial variables. Clinical factors were assessed via a medical chart review.

Results:

Thirty participants (26%) reported concealing their diagnosis in the previous month, most frequently from casual friends and close friends. Reported reasons for concealment largely reflected concern for others. Univariate analyses indicated that those who concealed their lung cancer diagnosis reported more internalized shame related to their illness and use of positive reappraisal as a coping strategy (ps ≤ 0.02). In addition, those who concealed were more likely to have used alcohol in the previous month and have a more recent recurrence, among those who had a recurrence (ps ≤ 0.04). Multivariate analyses indicated that internalized shame and use of positive reappraisal accounted for significant unique variance in concealment above and beyond that accounted for by use of alcohol (ps < 0.05).

Conclusions:

Future research should aim to replicate and extend these findings with longitudinal designs to elucidate the directionality of the associations observed in this study. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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