Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Susan M. McMillan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janine Overcash, Ph.D.

Committee Member

S. Joan Gregory, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Versie Johnson-Mallard, Ph.D.


Clinical, Research, Unit, State, Trait


Anxiety is a common problem for patients with cancer. Anxiety may have a negative impact on decision making and overall emotional well being of patients and may be related to the uncertainties faced by people with cancer. This study examined the relationship between uncertainty in illness and anxiety in patients with cancer.

The sample consisted of 30 patients, predominantly males (n=23), being treated as outpatients in the Clinical Research Unit at a National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in Florida. After agreeing to participate, patients completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory as well as Mishel's Uncertainty in Illness Scale.

Participants' ages ranged from 21 to 86, with a mean age of 64 years. Forty percent of the patients completed high school, 30% had some college education and almost 30% had a bachelor's degree or higher. Almost 47% of the sample had melanoma, other patients had renal cancer (n=3), or pancreatic cancer (n=2), acute myeloid leukemia (n=2), sarcoma (n=2), lung cancer (n=2), myeloma (n=2), chronic myeloid leukemia (n=1), glioblastoma (n=1), and rectal cancer (n=1). Seventy percent of the patients had stage IV disease.

The results of the study showed a significant positive relationship between uncertainty and both state anxiety (r=0.52, p=0.00.) and trait anxiety (r=0.61, p=0.000). A significant positive relationship was also found between the uncertainty subscale of ambiguity and both, state anxiety (r=0.538, p=0.002) and trait anxiety (r=0.56, p=0.001). Both state anxiety (r=0.39, p=0.034) and trait anxiety (r=0.64, p=0.000) were positively related to the uncertainty subset of inconsistency.

Although the sample size was small and not demographically diverse, the findings of this study are supportive of previous studies. The implications of this study in nursing are significant because they examine two emotional aspects that evidently exist among cancer patients, and that very likely cause distress to this population. The findings of this study suggest that additional focus in uncertainty and anxiety should take place in the clinical outpatient setting.