Reflecting on photos helps young cancer survivors regain confidence

December 02, 2019

Young cancer survivors face unique medical and psychosocial challenges that can hinder their ability to move on mentally and socially, even years after their final treatment. Lingering feelings of isolation and loss can contribute to a lack of confidence and self-efficacy, or the sense that they will be able to handle whatever arises in the future. But new research suggests survivors who retell their story through photography can significantly increase their self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Two years after receiving their final treatments, 18 leukemia survivors -- diagnosed as teenagers -- participated in the Framed Portrait Experience, an intervention which integrates therapeutic photography and re-enactment therapy. In the study by researchers at the University of Houston and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, where the intervention was developed, participants were empowered to express emotions connected to their illness in order to make meaning of their experience.

Working with a portrait photographer who was also a licensed social worker, the survivors chose three settings to take portraits that integrated meaningful objects and memories to represent their past, present and future.

Study co-author Chiara Acquati, assistant professor at the UH Graduate College of Social Work, recalled a young survivor who took her "past" portrait alongside her father fixing cars. "Her father was the one who stood by her side during her cancer treatment, so he was an important part of her cancer journey," said Acquati. That survivor's "present" portrait was one of reflection -- taken deep in thought along a serene riverbank. She dressed as a street performer who makes people laugh for her "future" photo.

"The goal is to retell their stories in contexts meaningful to them. It can be very emotional and challenging, but we hope that by looking back from a distance now that their cancer treatments are over, they can move forward with their lives," Acquati said.

Following the photo shoot, the pictures are printed and used during a clinical interview to guide the survivors' reflection about the changes they experienced as a result of cancer, and how those changes relate and integrate into their narrative of past, present, and future.

Young cancer survivors often feel isolated and distant from the experience of their healthy-peers, according to the researchers. This easy-to-implement and low-cost intervention allows them a safe space to retell their story and promote self-efficacy. "The objective is to reorganize their cancer narrative, or the story they tell themselves about their experience and better accept cancer as part of their life story," said study co-author Emanuela Saita, associate professor of psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

While the researchers acknowledge the small sample size, they said they are encouraged that participants now perceive themselves as better able to manage problems and more equipped to face obstacles.
-end-
The study is published in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

University of Houston

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.