A Prospective Study of Goal-related Coping in Early-stage Breast Cancer Patients

  • N. Stefanic
  • P. Caputi
  • D. Iverson
  • L. Lane


Background: The demands associated with the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness can substantially interfere with personal goal pursuit. Adaptive goal-related coping is necessary to maintain psychological well-being in response to goal interference. This prospective study sought to gain insight into the nature of goal-related coping in the context of early-stage breast cancer. Methods: Personal goal interference and goal-related coping were examined in a sample of female breast cancer patients (n=33) at two, four and six months post-surgery using a novel mixed-method goal-specific assessment and multi-phase thematic analysis. Findings: Participants widely varied in their experiences of goal interference and subsequent coping responses across different goals and over time. Four clusters of participants were identified on the basis of patterns of adaptive (vs. maladaptive) goal-related coping over time. Discussion: Findings suggest that early-stage breast cancer patients widely vary in their experience of goal-related coping across time and provide support for a situation-specific approach to investigating goal-related coping in early-stage breast cancer patients. Further empirical studies are needed to examine the utility of this approach in larger samples of breast cancer patients. Such research may inform person-centred psychosocial support in this population.
Oral presentations