Anxiety and compliance among women at high risk for breast cancer

Ann Behav Med. Fall 2001;23(4):298-303. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2304_9.


The aim of this study was to investigate the association between symptoms of depression and general anxiety, patient's feelings of vulnerability to cancer, the anxiety experienced specifically in relation to various cancer-screeningprocedures, and compliance with these procedures among women atfamilial risk for breast cancer The data were obtained from 430 patients from the High Risk Clinic at the UCLA Revlon Breast Center who completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and answered questions about their perceived vulnerability to breast cancer; the anxiety they experienced regarding undergoing pap smear tests, mammograms, and breast self-examinations (BSEs); and their compliance with these cancer-screening procedures. Correlations were used to estimate the association between feelings of anxiety and compliance. We found that women attending programs targeting those at familial risk for breast cancer suffer from significant symptoms of general anxiety. General anxiety was found to be related to anxiety regarding specific screening practices but not to women's perceived vulnerability to cancer In general, neither general nor screening-specific anxiety were found to be related to patients 'compliance with screening practices; however, significant associations were found between patient's feelings of anxiety regarding BSEs and their actual performing them. BSE appears to be the only procedure for which compliance is negatively associated with procedure-specific anxiety. We offer possible explanations for this relation and discuss the possible psychological impact that recommendations regarding BSEs may have on highly anxious at-risk women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Breast Self-Examination / psychology
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology