Checking Behavior, Fear of Recurrence, and Daily Triggers in Breast Cancer Survivors

Soriano EC, Valera R, Pasipanodya EC, Otto AK, Siegel SD, Laurenceau JP

Ann Behav Med 2018 May;

PMID: 29771272


Background: Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is a top ongoing concern of breast cancer (BC) survivors and thus the focus of recent intervention development. The Self-Regulation Model of FCR (Lee-Jones C, Humphris G, Dixon R, Hatcher MB. Fear of cancer recurrence-a literature review and proposed cognitive formulation to explain exacerbation of recurrence fears. Psychooncology. 1997;6:95-105.) states that everyday cancer-related events trigger FCR, which, in turn, leads to specific behavioral responses, including checking the body for signs or symptoms of cancer. Links between triggering events, FCR, and checking behavior have not yet been studied in the context of daily life or at the within-person level.

Purpose: The goal of this study was to examine whether FCR has a within-person link with daily checking behavior and whether FCR mediates the link between triggering events and checking behavior.

Methods: Seventy-two early-stage BC survivors completed daily diaries over a 21-day period approximately 5 months after BC surgery. FCR, checking behavior, and triggering events were assessed each evening.

Results: Multilevel modeling results indicated that FCR predicted greater odds of same-day, but not next-day, checking behavior. We found that daily FCR significantly mediated the same-day effect of triggering events on checking behavior. These average within-person effects varied substantially between patients and were not explained by momentary negative affect.

Conclusions: Findings support the within-person relationship between triggering events, FCR, and checking behavior posited by guiding theory, and can inform FCR intervention development.

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