Predicting general and cancer-related distress in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer

Andrea Gibbons, AnnMarie Groarke, Karl Sweeney

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BackgroundPsychological distress can impact medical outcomes such as recovery from surgery and experience of side effects during treatment. Identifying the factors that explain variability in distress would guide future interventions aimed at decreasing distress. Two factors that have been implicated in distress are illness perceptions and coping, and are part of the Self-Regulatory Model of Illness Behaviour (SRM). The model suggests that coping mediates the relationship between illness perceptions and distress. Despite this; very little research has assessed this relationship with cancer-related distress, and none have examined women with screen-detected breast cancer. This study is the first to examine the relative contribution of illness perceptions and coping on general and cancer-related distress in women with screen-detected breast cancer.
MethodsWomen recently diagnosed with breast cancer (N = 94) who had yet to receive treatment completed measures of illness perceptions (Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire), cancer-specific coping (Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale), general anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale), and cancer-related distress.
ResultsHierarchical regression analyses revealed that medical variables, illness perceptions and coping predicted 50% of the variance in depression, 42% in general anxiety, and 40% in cancer-related distress. Believing in more emotional causes to breast cancer (β = .22, p = .021), more illness identity (β = .25, p = .004), greater anxious preoccupation (β = .23, p = .030), and less fighting spirit (β = −.31, p = .001) predicted greater depression. Greater illness coherence predicted less cancer-related distress (β = −.20, p = .043). Greater anxious preoccupation also led to greater general anxiety (β = .44, p < .001) and cancer-related distress (β = .37, p = .001). Mediation analyses revealed that holding greater beliefs in a chronic timeline, more severe consequences, greater illness identity and less illness coherence increases cancer-specific distress (ps < .001) only if women were also more anxiously preoccupied with their diagnosis.
ConclusionsScreening women for anxious preoccupation may help identify women with screen-detected breast cancer at risk of experiencing high levels of cancer-related distress; whilst illness perceptions and coping could be targeted for use in future interventions to reduce distress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number935
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2016

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