Psychological morbidity and stress but not social factors influence level of fear of cancer recurrence in young women with early breast cancer: Results of a cross-sectional study

B. Thewes, M. L. Bell, P. Butow, J. Beith, F. Boyle, M. Friedlander, S. A. McLachlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is a common problem amongst survivors. Past research has shown that young women with breast cancer are particularly vulnerable to FCR, yet few previous studies have specifically examined FCR in this subgroup. Aims The aim of the study is to explore the relationship between FCR, psychological morbidity and social factors. A secondary aim was to explore the relationship between clinical levels of FCR and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and hypochondriasis. Method Two hundred eighteen breast cancer survivors (aged 18-45 years at diagnosis) diagnosed at least 1 year prior were recruited through seven metropolitan oncology clinics and two breast cancer consumer groups. Participants completed a web-based questionnaire, which assessed FCR, psychological functioning, generalised anxiety, hypochondriasis and items exploring past cancer-related experiences, attitudes to future childbearing, social support and correlates were identified using linear regression. Results Psychological morbidity scales measuring anxiety and psychological functioning and stressful life events were significantly associated with FCR in adjusted and unadjusted models (p < 0.0001). Past cancer experiences, children, social support and attitudes to childrearing were not associated with FCR. Among those with clinical levels of FCR (n = 152), 43% met screening criteria for hypochondriasis, and 36% met screening criteria for GAD. Conclusions This study shows psychological morbidity is associated with FCR, but the majority of women with high levels of FCR do not also meet the criteria for a clinical level of GAD or hypochondriasis. Understanding the factors that make young women vulnerable to FCR is important to help guide the development of FCR-specific interventions for this subgroup.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2797-2806
Number of pages10
JournalPsycho-Oncology
Volume22
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • breast cancer
  • cancer
  • comorbidity
  • fear of recurrence
  • oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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