A clean bill of health often does not cause the worry to go away for breast cancer survivors.
In a study of more than 200 individuals successfully treated for breast cancer, investigators discovered that two-thirds continued to have “a moderate level of worry,” although they had been free of cancer for three years.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have published their findings in the journal Psycho-Oncology.
“Little is known about the factors associated with cancer worry,” said paper lead author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
“In order to evaluate those factors, this study examined associations between breast cancer worry and demographic factors, such as age, and clinical factors, such as having had chemotherapy, fatigue, greater symptom burden and greater perceived risk perception of recurrence.”
Jacobsen and his colleagues found that women who reported physical symptoms and fatigue were more concerned about a return of cancer.
“Understanding the characteristics associated with cancer worry can help identify those who are likely to experience such fears,” Jacobsen explained. “Understanding those factors is important because worry can be linked to health behaviors.”
Paradoxically, some worry about cancer may lead to improved health habits although too much worry can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
“Of particular interest were the significant effects of risk perception,” Jacobsen added. “It is logical that those who perceive themselves to be a greater risk for recurrence – which may not correspond to actual risk – worry more.”
Researchers believe that fatigue, symptom burden and risk perception are associated with cancer worry among breast cancer survivors.
Furthermore, lingering fatigue and other symptoms may remind breast cancer survivors of their disease and, in turn, raise cancer worry.
Source: Moffitt Cancer Center