Worry about cancer recurrence or progression is associated with negative effects of cancer, such as worse physical functioning, but associations with positive changes post-cancer, such as benefit finding, are unknown. We measured the proportion of patients reporting frequent worry about cancer recurrence or progression and examined the association between worry about cancer recurrence or progression to benefit finding and functioning in cancer.
We surveyed 594 long-term (5-10 years post-diagnosis) survivors of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, melanoma) in this cross-sectional study. The survey asked about worry about cancer recurrence/progression, negative effects of cancer on mental and physical function, and benefit finding as a result of the cancer (positive effects). Multivariate regressions estimated associations of worry about cancer with negative and positive effects of cancer.
Worrying about cancer often or all the time was reported by 19.6% of survivors. Worry about cancer was related to worse functioning (odds ratio (OR) range 1.40 to 1.46, all p's < .01). Worry about recurrence/progression was unrelated to benefit finding (all p's > .10).
Worry about cancer was associated with negative, but not positive, effects of cancer. Treating worry about cancer is unlikely to reduce benefit finding after cancer. Given the high prevalence of worry about cancer and relationship to negative effects of cancer, clinical care should attempt to address this worry for long-term survivors.