Intrusive thoughts about cancer, often identified as 'cancer-specific worries' or 'cancer-specific distress', have been postulated to be associated with dysfunction in women at increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. The current study discusses the development and validation of a measure designed to assess women's perceptions of the interference such worries create in their daily functioning. Analyses revealed that approximately two-thirds of a high-risk breast cancer clinic sample perceived worries about breast cancer as interfering with their functioning across a variety of life domains. Multiple regression analyses indicated that worry interference scores predicted Profile of Mood States (POMS) Anxiety and Confusion, and Short Form-36 (SF-36) Role-Emotional and Mental Health scores after the effects of other variables such as frequency of worry about breast cancer, and having a family history of cancer had been considered. Women who perceived their worries as interfering with their functioning reported higher levels of anxiety and confusion, and diminished mental health and role functioning. The results add to the expanding area of anxiety/distress in at-risk populations by providing (1) a direct measure of the perceived interference associated with breast cancer-specific thoughts, (2) a validation of the measure via its associations with standard measures of emotional distress and health functioning, and (3) evidence of the measure's incremental predictive value in explaining distress and quality of life, after consideration of background variables, such as having a family history of cancer.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.