Post-Traumatic Growth after Cancer: A Thematic Analysis Study

  • Michael Galea University of Malta, Malta
  • Josianne Scerri University of Malta, Malta
  • Paulann Grech University of Malta, Malta
  • Alexei Sammut University of Malta, Malta
  • Christie Attard University of Malta, Malta
Keywords: serious illness, cancer, posttraumatic growth, coping, PTG, health


Background: That a diagnosis of, and treatment to cancer brings along shock, distress and possible long-term negative life changes is very clear from human experience and research alike. But such an experience can also relate to positive life changes, as increasing research on the aftermath of serious illness, such as cancer diagnosis consistently shows. Observations of positive outcomes linked to quality of life are increasingly being found in cancer studies. These results seem to converge with post-traumatic growth (PTG)  which emphasize positive life changes as resulting from considerable life-changing events that are borne from crises or trauma.

Objectives: Aims to this study were to 1) investigate the holistic impact and ramifications of PTG on the recovery from serious illness such as cancer; 2) clarify the relationship, if any, of PTG with mental health outcomes; and 3) how is PTG strengthened or otherwise, when one is faced by such life-changing event.

Methods: Using a Thematic Analysis design, we investigated how the diagnosis of, and treatment to cancer impacted the patients and survivors. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with people who had received treatment for breast (n=3), MSS (n=1), ovarian (n=2), bone (n=2), H. Lymphoma (n=1), Liver (n=1). Using descriptive mapping, we clarified whether this study results are consistent with Tedeschi and Calhoun’s PTG framework.

Results: Findings charted on the key factors of PTG.

Conclusions: Cancer results in varied consequences and in negative and positive adjustments. Further development of findings which charted on major PTG dimensions is warranted.


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