Psychosocial responses to treatment for breast cancer among lesbian and heterosexual women

Patricia L. Arena, Charles S. Carver, Michael H. Antoni, Sharlene Weiss, Gail Ironson, Ron E. Durán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This study compared the experiences of 39 self-identified lesbians and 39 heterosexual women who had recently been treated for breast cancer. They were matched by age, stage of disease, time since diagnosis, and ethnicity. Data were collected by a questionnaire completed at home and returned by mail. Variables assessed included emotional adjustment, thought intrusion and avoidance, perceived quality of life, concerns about breast cancer, benefit finding, relationship and sexual disruption, psychosexual adjustment, social support, and coping. Compared to the heterosexual women, lesbians reported less thought avoidance, lower levels of sexual concern, less concern about their appearance, and less disruption in sexual activity, but also substantially lower perceptions of benefit from having had cancer. Lesbians reported less social connection to family, but no group difference emerged in connection to friends. Lesbians reported less denial coping, and more use of support from friends, more venting, and more positive reframing. Better understanding of the similarities and differences between groups will help address the relevant clinical issues appropriately, in order to optimize psychosocial adjustment to breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-102
Number of pages22
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


  • Benefit finding
  • Breast cancer
  • Coping
  • Lesbian
  • Psychosexual
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Gender Studies


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