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A Model Linking Uncertainty, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Health Behaviors in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Ya-Ling Lee
Bih-Shya Gau
Wen-Ming Hsu
Hsiu-Hao Chang
ONF 2009, 36(1), E20-E30 DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E20-E30

Purpose/Objectives: To consolidate the literature and provide a model to explain the links among uncertainty, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and health behaviors in adolescent and young adult childhood cancer survivors.

Data Sources: A systemic review of related literature and theory was used for the proposed model. The literature pertaining to the Uncertainty in Illness Theory, childhood cancer late effects, post-traumatic stress, and health behaviors was reviewed and critiqued from three data sets from 1979-2007: MEDLINE®, Psyc Info, and CINAHL®. Key words used for the search were uncertainty and post-traumatic stress as well as health behaviors, including smoking, alcohol use, unsafe sex, sunscreen use, and physical inactivity.

Data Synthesis: Childhood cancer survivors living with chronic uncertainty may develop a new view of life and, as a result, adopt more health-promotion behaviors and engage in less health-risk behaviors. However, survivors living with chronic uncertainty may generate symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and, therefore, adopt fewer health-promotion behaviors and engage in more health-risk behaviors.

Conclusions: The uncertainty that pervades the childhood cancer experience can lead to the development of symptoms that resemble those of post-traumatic stress. The symptoms can interfere with the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors and avoidance of health-risk behaviors.

Implications for Nursing: The theoretically derived model outlined in this article can be used to guide clinical interventions and additional research into the health behaviors of childhood cancer survivors.

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