Beyond “being open about it”: A systematic review on cancer related communication within couples

Ilanit Hasson-Ohayon, Gil Goldzweig, Michal Braun, Mariët Hagedoorn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Extensive literature addresses the correlates of communication behaviors within couples in the specific stressful context of oncology. This literature focused mainly on the concepts of disclosure, concealment, holding back and protective buffering to gain more insight into the potential benefits of open communication on the psychological and relational wellbeing of the patient, the spouse and the dyad. The current systematic review aims to present this literature, summarize research findings and suggest empirical, theoretical and clinical implications. Methods: The search method applied in this review was in line with the PRISMA guidelines. Key words related to couples' communication and oncology were used to identify relevant studies according to title and abstract fields from 1.1.2000 until 31.1.22. Results: Out of 3277 papers, a total of 55 articles were identified as relevant for this review. These quantitative studies used cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Overall, integrating findings from different studies showed that while avoiding communication is negatively associated with psychological and relational wellbeing, the benefits of disclosure seems to be dependent on different factors including the partner's responsiveness, contextual factors and personal characteristics. The existing literature is limited in providing data regarding the nature of adequate or helpful partner responses, the best timing, and the specific topics that are recommended to be disclosed such as specific fears. Most importantly, it is limited in heterogeneity of constructs of communication that were studied, scales that were used and diverse mediators and moderators that were examined. Accordingly, an effort to reach consensus of definition and assessment of communicative behavior is recommended for future studies, and addressing responsiveness to communicative initiations seems to be important for clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102176
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cancer related communication
  • Concealment
  • Disclosure
  • Dyadic


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