Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

8-2017

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Sephton, Sandra

Committee Member

Salmon, Paul

Committee Member

Mast, Benjamin

Committee Member

Cash, Elizabeth

Committee Member

Newtown, Tamara

Author's Keywords

mindfulness; quality of life; traumatic stress; cancer-specific distress

Abstract

Lung cancer is the most common malignant disease worldwide, and the rapid decline in functioning due to the often-later stage diagnosis can strongly impact a patient’s health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Palliative care, with the aim of improving later-stage HRQOL, is often a main goal of treatment. Compared to other cancer types, patients with lung cancer experience the greatest amount of psychological distress during and after treatment. Prior trauma exposure, and the potentially traumatic nature of the cancer experience, can further complicate HRQOL. Mindfulness, an innate or acquired capacity for sustaining attention in the present moment with qualities of self-warmth and compassion, may serve as a protective factor that promotes well-being following a cancer diagnosis. The present study investigated the associations of trauma, HRQOL and mindfulness in a sample of lung cancer patients. It also examined the potential moderating role dispositional mindfulness may take in buffering the relationship between trauma and HRQOL. Forty-six participants diagnosed within the last five years with non-small cell lung cancer (34 females, 12 males, mean age = 61.5) were administered self-report assessments of trauma history, traumatic distress appraisal, cancer-specific distress, HRQOL and mindfulness. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were employed to investigate the relationships of interest. Primary analyses revealed that traumatic distress appraisal and cancer-specific distress were negatively associated with HRQOL. Mindfulness was negatively associated with cancer-specific distress and positively associated with HRQOL. The relationships between trauma (as measured by traumatic distress appraisal and cancer-specific distress) and HRQOL were not moderated by mindfulness. The current study supports the notion that trauma factors engender a vulnerability to having poorer HRQOL and that mindfulness may serve as a protective factor in the psychological adjustment to lung cancer and can improve quality of life. Future studies should further investigate mindfulness as both an explanatory construct and an intervention target to improve HRQOL in lung cancer patients.

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