Associations between a sense of connection and existential and psychosocial outcomes in gynecologic and breast cancer survivors

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8 Scopus citations


Background: A cancer diagnosis may lead to existential despair but potentially also to perceived inner growth. This growth may be fostered through meaningful connections with others. We sought to describe existential and related psychosocial outcomes and their association with a sense of connection with others in individuals with gynecological and breast cancers. Methods: We used cross-sectional data from two ongoing cohort studies of gynecologic (N = 236) and breast (N = 62) cancer survivors at the University of Minnesota. We summarized self-reported post-traumatic growth (PTG), sense of meaning, peace, spirituality, hopelessness, loneliness, and three exploratory measures of sense of connections with others, and used multivariate linear regression models to describe the associations between them. Results: Hope, sense of meaning, peace, and spirituality were generally high among participants, but PTG and loneliness scores varied more. Sense of connection with others was consistently associated with greater PTG and decreased loneliness with medium effect sizes: for example having positive interactions with most/all versus nobody on one’s medical team, PTG (coefficient 10.49, 95% CI: 4.10, 16.87, Cohen’s D 0.44); loneliness (coefficient − 0.85, 95% CI: − 1.36, − 0.34, Cohen’s D 0.43). Those who knew someone in a similar life situation felt a strong sense of connection with such a person; however, 28% of participants had not met anyone in a similar situation. Conclusions: There may be untapped opportunities to nurture beneficial existential outcomes in cancer survivors. Potential interventions include connecting survivors with one another and creating opportunities for more authentic patient-provider relationships, for example, within palliative care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3329-3336
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota by a National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute grant (P30 CA77598). Support for the use of REDCap was provided by a National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant (UL1TR002494). RIV is supported by a Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program Ovarian Cancer Academy Early Career Investigator Award (OC180392 W81XWH-19–1-0013). The funders had no role in the implementation of this study or presentation of results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cancer survivorship
  • Existential outcomes
  • Post-traumatic growth
  • Psychosocial outcomes
  • Sense of connection


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