A qualitative exploration of fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) amongst Australian and Canadian breast cancer survivors

Belinda Thewes, S Lebel, L Seguin, P Butow

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Purpose: Few studies have explored coping strategies used by cancer survivors to deal with fear of cancer recurrence (FCR), and little research has been conducted on the specific content of recurrence fears. This study aims to qualitatively explore the strategies used by younger breast cancer survivors to cope with FCR and whether women with low, medium and high levels of FCR employ different coping strategies. An additional aim was to understand the specific content of worst recurrence fears. Method: Twenty Australian and 10 Canadian women aged ≤45 years diagnosed with stages 0–II disease at least 1 year prior completed telephone interviews. The transcripts of audio-taped interviews were analysed using the qualitative methodology of transcendental realism. Results: Women with higher FCR described using distraction and avoidance and fewer coping skills. The fear of death was a common worst fear at all levels of FCR. However, participants with higher FCR described more elaborate fears of death often involving themes of pain and suffering. Cross-cultural differences were not observed. Conclusions: Women with higher FCR report using fewer and more avoidance-based coping techniques. Whilst many participants feared death, those with higher FCR reported more elaborate death fears. Women with high levels of FCR may benefit from learning a greater repertoire of coping skills. Understanding the specific content of FCR can help refine existing psychological treatment protocols for FCR.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2269-2276
    Number of pages8
    JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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