Relationship of Illness Perception and Fear of Cancer Recurrence to Psychological Distress among Gynecologic Cancer Survivors
Sam, Annamma Varghese
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Gynecologic cancer survivors account for approximately 9% of all cancer survivors, and about 40% of the gynecologic cancer survivors have been reported to experience some form of psychological distress. Further, fear of cancer recurrence is prevalent among gynecologic cancer survivors, and illness perceptions influence psychological distress among cancer patients in general. Although a growing body of research has begun to document problems that cancer survivors experience, the generalizability of these findings related to psychological distress among gynecological cancer survivors is unclear. The overall purpose of this exploratory, descriptive study was to explore the relationship between psychological distress, illness perception, and fear of cancer recurrence among gynecologic cancer survivors. The central theme of this study was that gynecologic cancer survivors’ illness perception and fear of cancer recurrence in combination with select demographic variables could predict survivors’ psychological distress. Findings from this study suggested that higher levels of psychological distress, fear of cancer recurrence, and illness perceptions were seen among younger aged and early survivors. Additionally, psychological distress, fear of cancer recurrence, and illness perception were slightly lower for non-Whites than Whites. A negative correlation was noted between psychological distress, fear of cancer recurrence, and illness perception with age and survivorship duration among both Whites and non-Whites. Finally, the results suggested that illness perception and survivorship duration were the best predictor variables for psychological distress among White participants; however, for non-White participants, illness perception alone was found to be the best predictor for psychological distress. The overarching conclusion was that gynecologic cancer survivors experienced psychological distress, and that fear of cancer recurrence and illness perception played a role in the psychological distress experienced by survivors. These findings were closely aligned with other studies’ conceptualizations of survivors with other forms of cancer. Further, results indicated that non-Whites may experience psychological distress differently from Whites. However, this finding should be viewed with caution because of the small number of non-White participants in this study. It may also be concluded that younger survivors and those with shorter duration from treatment completion have more psychological distress, fear of cancer recurrence, and illness perception.
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