The past decade has seen an increase in empirical research focused on post traumatic growth (PTG) among cancer survivors. Although many studies intend to identify factors that may explain this growth process, the majority do not adhere to any specific theoretical model. Consequently, results obtained remain descriptive and scattered. The Organismic Valuing Theory (OVT)1 offers a good theoretical framework to study factors associated with PTG in this population. This model states that experiencing growth involves the accommodation of traumatic information regarding the illness into modified schemas about self, others and the world. According to OVT, factors linked to accommodation are a significant impact of diagnosis on personal goals, active cognitive and emotional processing of information, adaptive coping strategies, flexible personality, and a supportive social environment.
The primary objective of this review is to verify to what extent the empirical data on PTG in oncology offers support for OVT.
We systematically searched the literature on PTG in cancer patients in Medline, Embase and PsychINFO (earliest date available - 2012). Relevant papers were selected when the used the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory as a quantitative measure of growth. A hand-searched of reference lists and consultation with experts were conducted to ensure all relevant articles were included.
Following screening of abstracts, 53 studies were included in this review. Results suggest that empirical data partially supports OVT, with many studies showing that adaptive coping strategies, and active processing of information were linked to PTG. Results were mixed concerning personality, supportive social environment and impact of diagnosis.
OVT may be a good framework to understand the process of PTG along the cancer trajectory. It is crucial that future research in oncology focus on the testing and refinement of theory such as OVT in order for study results to be synthesized and implemented into practice.