Many advanced cancer patients struggle with anxiety, depressive symptoms, and anger toward God and illness-related stressors. Patients may perceive their illness as an injustice (i.e., appraise their illness as unfair, severe, and irreparable or blame others for their illness), which may be a risk factor for poor psychological and spiritual outcomes. This study examined relations between cancer-related perceived injustice and psycho-spiritual outcomes as well as potential mediators of these relationships.
Advanced lung (n = 102) and prostate (n = 99) cancer patients completed a one-time survey. Using path analyses, we examined a parallel mediation model including the direct effects of perceived injustice on psycho-spiritual outcomes (i.e., anxiety, depressive symptoms, anger about cancer, anger towards God) and the indirect effects of perceived injustice on psycho-spiritual outcomes through two parallel mediators: meaning making and acceptance of cancer. We then explored whether these relations differed by cancer type.
Path analyses indicated that perceived injustice was directly and indirectly—through acceptance of cancer but not meaning making—associated with psycho-spiritual outcomes. Results did not differ between lung and prostate cancer patients.
Advanced cancer patients with greater perceived injustice are at higher risk for poor psycho-spiritual outcomes. Acceptance of cancer, but not meaning making, explained relationships between cancer-related perceived injustice and psycho-spiritual outcomes. Findings support testing acceptance-based interventions to address perceived injustice in advanced cancer patients.