General Factors Influencing Adjustment
Although there are some commonalities in normal adjustment to the varying stressors of cancer, there are also many individual differences. It is difficult to predict how individuals will cope with cancer, so it is important to recognize factors that influence adjustment to cancer. One study of women with stage II or III breast cancer  reported that higher levels of stress measured postsurgically at the time of diagnosis predicted lower physical and psychological quality of life. The stress measures included the following:
- Number of stressful life events in the past year.
- Cancer-related traumatic stress symptoms.
- Perceived global stress.
All measures were predictive.
Another study evaluated women with stage 0 breast cancer to stage III breast cancer (N = 89) at three time points: during treatment, at 3 weeks following end of treatment, and at 3 months posttreatment. Most survivors showed good adjustment on general distress indices. The factors predicting sustained distress included young age, history of depression or anxiety, and more extensive treatment. Younger age was the only factor that predicted greater distress across all evaluated measures.
Psychosocial adjustment/adaptation has been determined to be influenced by three broad categories of factors: cancer derived, patient derived, and society derived.[4,18] Cancer-derived factors include the following:
- Type of cancer.
- Cancer stage.
- Where a patient falls in the cancer continuum of diagnosis, treatment, and recurrence.
Patient-derived factors include two types of resources:[19,20]
- Intrapersonal coping resources.
- Interpersonal social support (e.g., family support).
Patient-derived factors also include consideration for stage of life  (i.e., developmental tasks-young adults may respond quite differently from older adults).
Society-derived factors include the general societal views of cancer (e.g., stigma), as well as the influence society has on issues such as availability of treatments, open versus closed discussion of the illness, and popular beliefs about cause.
The personality traits of optimism and pessimism might play a critical role in the psychological well-being of cancer patients. A German study investigated the impact of optimism and pessimism on psychological well-being in 161 newly diagnosed cancer patients with heterogeneous cancers. Patients were assessed for optimism/pessimism and positive/negative emotions before the start of their first chemotherapy session and at 9 months' follow-up. Before the start of chemotherapy, psychological well-being was associated with higher optimism and lower pessimism. Only pessimism predicted negative change in psychological well-being at the 9-month follow-up. Additionally, only pessimism predicted heightened perception of chemotherapy-related side effects.
The availability of social support, as part of a social network, has been found to be related to mortality from breast cancer. In a longitudinal study of 2,835 female nurses with breast cancer, those who, before diagnosis, reported no close contacts (e.g., relatives, friends, or living children) had a twofold increased risk of mortality from breast cancer, compared with those who had more social contacts (e.g., ten or more close relatives). This increased mortality was only found when comparing these two extremes in social ties, suggesting that women with relatively few social contacts or an intermediate number of contacts may not be at increased risk. Overall, these results suggest the important role of close relatives willing to step in and provide needed care.