Factors reported to influence fear of recurrence in cancer patients: a systematic review


Correspondence to: School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK B15 2TT. E-mail: e.a.grunfeld@bham.ac.uk



Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is a significant psychological problem for cancer survivors. Some survivors experience FCR, which is both persistent and highly distressing. The aim of this systematic review was to identify the key factors associated with fear of recurrence among cancer patients.


A comprehensive literature search using keywords was performed with three databases, followed by an organic search to identify additional relevant articles. Included studies had a quantitative methodology presenting empirical findings focussed on adult cancer patients. A methodological quality assessment was performed for each study, and the strength of evidence was defined by the consistency of results.


Forty-three studies met the inclusion criteria and are presented in this review. The most consistent predictor of elevated FCR was younger age. There was strong evidence for an association between physical symptoms and fear of cancer recurrence. Additional factors moderately associated with increased FCR included treatment type, low optimism, family stressors and fewer significant others. Inconsistent evidence was found for socio-demographic factors.


Fear of cancer recurrence is a complex issue influenced by a multitude of factors, including demographic, clinical and psychological factors. However, some studies have reported contradictory evidence, and FCR has been measured using a range of scales, which can hamper comparison across studies. Further research is needed to clarify inconsistencies in the current published research. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.