Relationship of Threat Appraisal with Coping Appraisal to Fear of Cancer Recurrence in Breast Cancer Survivors

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Objectives: Prior research suggests that fear of cancer recurrence (FOR) is very common among cancer survivors. This study examined the extent to which the interaction of threat appraisal and coping appraisal accounted for differences in FOR in cancer patients who recently completed treatment. It was hypothesized that greater FOR would be related to a combination of high threat appraisal and low coping appraisal.

Methods: A sample of 155 early stage breast cancer patients (mean age = 59 years) who completed surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy between 6 and 24 months previously (mean = 12 months) completed measures of FOR, threat appraisal (perceived risk and severity of a potential cancer recurrence), and coping appraisal (perceived response efficacy and self‐efficacy to perform diet and exercise recommendations to reduce recurrence risk). Basic demographic and clinical information were also collected.

Results: Threat appraisal accounted for 30% of the variance in FOR (p<0.001) while coping appraisal accounted for 0% (p = 0.64). After accounting for these variables and relevant covariates, the interaction of threat appraisal and coping appraisal explained 2% of the remaining variance in FOR (p = 0.04). As hypothesized, survivors who reported high threat appraisal and low coping appraisal had the highest FOR.

Conclusions: Future research should focus on examining these relationships longitudinally and further assess coping appraisal and how it impacts cancer recurrence fears.

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Psycho-Oncology, v. 21, issue 2, p. 203-210.