Emotion Regulation and Adjustment to Cancer Treatment and Survivorship

Our research focuses on emotion regulation processes influencing health behaviors and responses to health threats. These studies explore the influences of anxiety and worry on interpretations of health information, symptom perception, use of health care services, parental management of a child’s chronic illness, and responses to psychological support interventions.
Much of this research is conducted within the context of cancer treatment and survivorship. Early research included the use of a double-blind, placebo-controlled drug trial to investigate the influences of trait anxiety on symptom perception and responses to side effects. The study, conducted in collaboration with Richard Love at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Howard Leventhal at Rutgers University, revealed that trait anxiety is associated with greater accuracy in detecting physical symptoms (Cameron, Leventhal, & Love, 1998). In a subsequent article, we reported additional analyses indicating that high-anxious women receiving tamoxifen (relative to low-anxious tamoxifen users) experienced greater physiological reactions involving bone mineral density and sex hormone binding globulin, suggesting that the physiological processes underlying anxiety interact with the drug’s endocrine effects (Cameron, Leventhal, Love, & Patrick-Miller, 2002).
In a large, longitudinal project funded by the Breast Cancer Research Trust of New Zealand, my colleagues and I have conducted a series of studies evaluating psychosocial experiences and responses to support services during the two years following a breast cancer diagnosis (Cameron et al., 2005; Cameron, Booth, Schlatter, Ziginskas, & Harmon, 2007). We conducted a trial of a group intervention that focused on developing emotion regulation skills, and we found that the 12-week program was efficacious in enhancing psychosocial well-being and reducing emotional suppression tendencies over the year following diagnosis.
I also collaborate on the Life After Cancer Study, a national survey of over 800 long-term cancer survivors in New Zealand. The survey, which is funded by the Genesis Oncology Trust and led by Dr. Jill Bennett and a multidisciplinary team of scientists, is designed to explore the quality of life, worry of recurrence, symptom experiences, and cognitive and physical functioning over the years following cancer treatment (Bennett et al., 2009a, 2009b, 2010).

Emotion 1      Emotion 3


In a study conducted in collaboration with Dr. Melanie Schlatter, we evaluated the role of emotional suppression tendencies on symptom experiences and coping efficacy during chemotherapy for breast cancer (Schlatter & Cameron, 2010),. Using daily reports of symptoms, moods, and coping efficacy,, we found that tendencies to suppress anxiety, depression, and anger each exhibited distinctive patterns of relationships with symptoms, moods, and coping appraisals. The findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing emotional suppression of these negative emotions may help women cope with the symptomatic side effects of chemotherapy.

Emotion 4      Picture  095


In collaboration with Loshni Rogers (doctoral student at The University of Auckland), we are conducting a longitudinal survey of breast cancer survivors assessing their worries about cancer recurrence, how they manage these emotions, and how these emotion regulation experiences influence their quality of life.

Selected References:

Bennett, J. A., Cameron, L. D., Brown, P. M., Whitehead, L. C., & Porter, D., Ottaway-Parkes, T., & Robinson, E. (2010). Time since diagnosis as a predictor of symptoms, depression, cognition, social concerns, perceived benefits, and overall health in cancer survivors. Oncology Nursing Forum, 37, 331-8.
Bennett, J. A., Cameron, L. D., Brown, P. M., Whitehead, L. C., & Porter, D. (2009). Differences between older and younger cancer survivors in seeking cancer information and using complementary/alternative medicine. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24, 1089-1094.
Bennett, J. A., Brown, P., Cameron, L., Whitehead, L. C., Porter, D., & McPherson, K. M. (2009). Changes in employment and household income during the 24 months following a cancer diagnosis. Supportive Care in Cancer, 17, 1057-1064.
Cameron, L. D., Booth, R. J., Schlatter, M. S., Ziginskas, D., & Harman, J. (2007). Changes in emotion regulation and psychological adjustment following use of a group psychosocial support program for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 16, 171-180.
Cameron, L. D., Booth, R. J., Schlatter, M. S., Ziginskas, D., Harman, J., & Benson, S. R. C. (2005). Cognitive and affective determinants of decisions to attend a group psychosocial support program for women with breast cancer. Psychosomatic Medicine 67, 584-589.
Cameron, L. D., Leventhal, H., Love, R. R., & Patrick-Miller, L. (2002). Trait anxiety and tamoxifen effects on bone mineral density and sex hormone binding globulin. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64, 612-620.
Cameron, L. D., Leventhal, H. & Love, R. R. (1998). Trait anxiety, symptom perceptions, and illness-related responses among women with breast cancer in remission during a tamoxifen clinical trial. Health Psychology, 17, 459-469.
Cameron, L. D., & Nicholls, G. (1998). Disclosure of stressful experiences through writing: Effects of a self-regulation manipulation for pessimists and optimists. Health Psychology, 17, 84-92.
Cameron, L. D., Petrie, K. J. , Ellis, C., Buick, D., & Weinman, J. (2005). Trait anxiety and responses to a psychoeducational intervention for promoting adaptive illness perceptions in myocardial infarction patients. Psychology and Health, 15, 1-12.
Cameron, L. D., Young, M. J., & Wiebe, D. J. (2007). Maternal trait anxiety and diabetes control in adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 32, 733-744.
Schlatter, M. S., & Cameron, L. D. (2010). Emotional suppression tendencies as predictors of symptoms, mood, and coping appraisals during AC-chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40, 15-29.