Modern treatments for cancer are resulting in cancer patients living longer with the risk of the disease returning at a later stage. Many patients who experience a recurrence blame themselves (Mahon et al., 1990), while those in remission live with the constant fear that the cancer may return. Although fear of recurrence is recognised in the literature, few researchers have focused on this aspect as a precursor to psychological distress.
This paper reviews the literature about fear of recurrence and its measurement. Leventhal's Self Regulation Model of Illness is presented to help understand patients' reactions to cancer and fears for the future. The authors propose a formulation for fear of recurrence and examples of interventions that are indicated. © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.