Fear of cancer recurrence: a systematic literature review of self-report measures

Psychooncology. 2012 Jun;21(6):571-87. doi: 10.1002/pon.2070. Epub 2011 Oct 21.


Background: Prior research has shown that many cancer survivors experience ongoing fears of cancer recurrence (FCR) and that this chronic uncertainty of health status during and after cancer treatment can be a significant psychological burden. The field of research on FCR is an emerging area of investigation in the cancer survivorship literature, and several standardised instruments for its assessment have been developed.

Aims: This review aims to identify all available FCR-specific questionnaires and subscales and critically appraise their properties.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken to identify instruments measuring FCR. Relevant studies were identified via Medline (1950-2010), CINAHL (1982-2010), PsycINFO (1967-2010) and AMED (1985-2010) databases, reference lists of articles and reviews, grey literature databases and consultation with experts in the field. The Medical Outcomes Trust criteria were used to examine the psychometric properties of the questionnaires.

Results: A total of 20 relevant multi-item measures were identified. The majority of instruments have demonstrated reliability and preliminary evidence of validity. Relatively few brief measures (2-10 items) were found to have comprehensive validation and reliability data available. Several valid and reliable longer measures (>10 items) are available. Three have developed short forms that may prove useful as screening tools.

Conclusions: This analysis indicated that further refinement and validation of existing instruments is required. Valid and reliable instruments are needed for both research and clinical care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology