Emotional distress in cancer patients is an important outcome; however, emotional experience does not begin and end with emotion generation. Attempts to regulate emotions may lessen their potentially negative effects on physical and psychological well-being. Researchers have called for the study of emotion regulation (ER) in health psychology and psycho-oncology. Thus, this review has three aims. First, we discuss current understandings of emotion and ER across the cancer trajectory, including the principles of ER and methods for its assessment. Second, we present a model for examining the mediating effects of ER on psychosocial outcomes. Third, we “round out” the discussion with an example: new data on the role of ER in recurrent breast cancer. Taken together, these aims illustrate the impact of affective regulatory processes on cancer patients’ long-term outcomes. As survival rates increase, long-term follow-up studies are needed to characterize the dynamic, reciprocal effects of emotion and ER for cancer survivors. Further research on ER may help women with breast cancer better manage the challenges associated with diagnosis and treatment.
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