Examining the influence of personal goal interference and attainability on psychological distress in non-metastatic breast cancer patients

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The present study investigated the relationship between two goal-related appraisals - perceived cancer-related interference and perceived attainability of important personal goals - and psychological distress among non-metastatic breast cancer patients across the short-term treatment and recovery period. Forty-five women completed self-report questionnaires at approximately 1 and 6 months following surgery. A mixed idiographic-nomothetic goal methodology assessed perceived cancer-related interference and attainability of self-generated important personal goals. Psychological distress symptoms were assessed with the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales short form. Correlation analyses and general linear modelling were used to evaluate the hypothesised relationships over time. Average cancer-related interference and attainability of important personal goals were significantly associated with concurrent depression, anxiety and stress symptoms at 6 months following surgery. Perceived attainability of highly important goals at 6 months post-surgery uniquely predicted change in psychological distress symptoms over time. The findings suggest that low perceived attainability of important personal goals may be an important predictor of elevated distress symptoms across the short-term following surgery. Further insight into the relationship between these negative goal appraisals and psychological functioning among different groups of cancer patients could inform the provision of targeted psychosocial support across the cancer continuum.

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