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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

Authors

  • B. Thewes,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    • Correspondence to: Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, Transient Building F12, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia. E-mail: belinda.thewes@sydney.edu.au

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  • M. L. Bell,

    1. Psycho-Oncology Cooperative Research Group (PoCOG), School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • P. Butow,

    1. Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Psycho-Oncology Cooperative Research Group (PoCOG), School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • J. Beith,

    1. Department of Medical Oncology, Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • F. Boyle,

    1. Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Patricia Ritchie Centre for Cancer Care and Research, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    3. The Mater Hospital, North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • M. Friedlander,

    1. Department of Medical Oncology, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • S. A. McLachlan,

    1. Department of Medical Oncology, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • the Members of the FCR Study Advisory Committee


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. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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