Optimism & Distress in Women With Breast Cancer

The design of the study, “The Effects of Optimism on Distress in Women with Breast Cancer”, is a correlation because the research arrives at a conclusion through the identification and comparison of the association between distress levels and acceptance as a way of coping with cancer. The study does not meet the criteria for an experimental design because the research does not adjust the core variables to monitor their effects on the level of optimism. The research has eliminated the possibility of using age and chemotherapy as controllable variables in determining the patients’ optimism. An experimental design would require the study to involve forcing the patients to change their tendency towards acceptance as a way of coping with their condition and adopt varying levels of denial and disengagement. The impossibility of assigning some patients to groups with different levels of acceptance, which is a core variable of optimism, highlights the possibility of other possible interpretations, which is the case for correlation studies. The design of the study hampers the preciseness in concluding on the results because of the lack of variables that the researchers can change to expand the scope of the study and its results. Although acceptance as a way of coping with an illness influences optimism levels among patients, variables such as age have a significant effect on the tendencies of denial and disengagement (Scheier et al., 1994). The conclusion that the level of optimism varies among different age groups is plausible because factors such a family responsibilities and premature end of careers are likely to increase denial (Carver et al, 1989). Old patients are likely to exhibit considerable tendencies towards acceptance as a way of coping with their condition because of the perception that a bad ending will not have severe impacts, especially on the dependent relatives. Chemotherapy levels vary depending on the stage of a disease and patients in different stages are likely to exhibit varying levels of optimism. Frequent and intensive chemotherapy sessions have significant psychological effects on the patients’ optimism regarding their future with cancer. Controlling chemotherapy in the study limits the influence of a myriad of factors that would influence the level of optimism.

I am moderately confident with the results of the study because it relies on a sample size that is a reasonable representation of the population of women suffering from breast cancer. The study occurs over a period of 12 months, which is an acceptable period for acquiring satisfactory results because the researchers have ample time to consolidate errors that might arise in the initial stages of the experiment. The conclusion that high optimism leads to less distressed patients concurs with numerous studies on the role of psychological inclination in a patient’s response to healthcare and attainment of wellness (Clark, 2005). Controlling variables such as age and chemotherapy has significantly minimized the influence of factors that may cause irregular results at different levels of the study. The researchers should have discussed the trend of optimism as patients move from one stage to another because wavering optimism due to change in a medical condition is a general phenomenon. Sustaining the same level of optimism at all occasions of the interviews would require that the patients’ condition remains relatively unchanged. Feelings of denial may abate later with improvements in a patient’s perception of her health while optimistic patients may turn to denial as the change in their health increases distress levels.

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References

Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology56(2), 267-283.

Clark, A. V. (2005). Mood state and health. New York: Nova Biomedical Books.

Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(6), 1063-1078.

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