Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Lutgendorf, Susan K.

First Committee Member

Christensen, Alan J.

Second Committee Member

Markon, Kristian E.

Third Committee Member

O'Hara, Michael W.

Fourth Committee Member

Vander Weg, Mark W.


Little research has examined the effect of non-cancer life stressors on psychological well-being and recurrence in patients with cancer, and results have been mixed. Furthermore, no studies have examined specific types of stress, including loss, danger, and entrapment in patients with cancer, utilizing data obtained from the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule. Given that specifics stressors have been associated with certain psychological responses, this study sought to obtain a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between life stress and psychological well-being. This was examined in a sample of 135 women with ovarian cancer prior to surgery and during the year after diagnosis using latent growth curve analyses. Models of protective psychosocial resources examining social support, mastery, self-acceptance, and purpose in life as potential moderators and mediators of the relationship between life stress and psychosocial outcomes were also evaluated.

Results indicated that cancer-related losses were most closely associated with psychological well-being across several analyses, and non-cancer losses had the greatest impact on psychological outcomes when cancer-related loss was low. Non-cancer losses were significantly related to greater fatigue prior to surgery. Additionally, major non-cancer danger stressors were associated with greater distress prior to surgery. In this sample, no stressors were significantly related to cancer recurrence. Social support was the most consistent moderator of life stress on psychological well-being, and its effects on distress and depression at baseline were mediated through self-acceptance. These findings highlight the importance of both cancer- and non-cancer-related stressors on psychological wellbeing among cancer patients in their first year following surgery and furthers our understanding of the role of protective psychosocial factors. This study has significant implications for distress screenings in patients with cancer, psychological interventions, and future research.


Life stress, Ovarian cancer, Psychological resilience, Psychology, Quality of life


viii, 147 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 124-147).


Copyright © 2017 Lauren Zagorski Davis

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