The end of a successful cancer treatment and hearing the words “cancer free” should be cause for celebration.
Celebrations of that ilk are often short-lived, though, as most patients, upon completion of their cancer treatment will feel a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty about the future. A study by Jimenez and colleagues presented data at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago to assess how common in cancer survivors fear of recurrence is.
Of 636 patients who completed the survey, 318/636 (50.0%) patients had curable cancer and either completed cancer therapy or were completing maintenance treatment.
Of those 318 survivors, 167 (53%) reported fear of cancer recurrence.
Those with fear of cancer recurrence were more likely to be female (P
< .002) and under the age of 70 (P
Patients in the study also reported they were often sad (25%), anxious (40%), felt uncertain about the future (30%), had problems managing stress (26%), worried about dying (55%) and feared another cancer (74%).
Fear of cancer recurrence was not associated with education level, cancer type, knowledge of and interest in support services, or survivorship care plan receipt.
The authors concluded that fear of cancer recurrence is common in cancer survivors and that the emotional distress is insufficiently addressed by survivor care planning and supportive services. It is suggsted that clinicans can and should screen for fear of cancer recurrence and if present, should provide opportunities to discuss the cause of the fear and consider evidence-based interventions (e.g., counseling, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy).
Jimenez RB, Perez GK, Rabin J, et al. Fear of recurrence among cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2017; 35: (suppl; abstr 10053).