Does emotional expression make a difference in reactions to breast cancer?

B. L. Walker, L. M. Nail, R. T. Croyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To examine the feasibility of using an emotional expression intervention with patients with cancer and test the hypothesis that emotional expression improves psychosocial adjustment. DESIGN: Sequentially randomized pretest/post-test design with repeated measures. SETTING: Two radiation therapy (RT) facilities. SAMPLE: Women completing RT for stage I or II breast cancer, who spoke and read English, were independent in self-care, and provided written consent. Subjects (N = 44) were middle-aged (mean = 53.6 years), Caucasian, married, and well educated. METHODS: Following a baseline interview, subjects were sequentially randomized to an attentional control group, a single dose, or a three-dose emotional expression writing group. Interventions were administered at the time of completion of RT. Follow-up telephone interviews were completed at 1, 4-6, 16, and 28 weeks post-RT. MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Positive and negative affect, intrusiveness of thoughts, use of avoidant coping, side effect severity, trait negative affectivity, content of written essay, and themes derived from content analysis. FINDINGS: A high level of acceptance and completion of emotional expression existed, but no effect of the intervention on psychosocial adjustment was evident. Process measures in the three-dose group changed as expected. No relationship existed between content changes and outcome measures. CONCLUSIONS: Emotional expression is feasible for patients with cancer, but the efficacy of the intervention in improving mood and decreasing cognitive intrusion and avoidance was not supported. Emotional expression processes were consistent with those seen in other samples and may influence outcomes that were not addressed in this study. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: More extensive testing is needed, including additional outcome variables. Essays reveal concerns around communication, recurrence, and health behavior changes that should be considered in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1032
Number of pages8
JournalOncology nursing forum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)


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