Purpose: Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is among the most commonly reported problems and one of the most prevalent areas of unmet needs for cancer survivors and their carers. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of current scientific knowledge on FCR and to formulate recommendations for future research.
Methods: A systematic review was undertaken to identify quantitative studies associated with FCR. Relevant studies were identified via Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO and AMED databases from 1996 through December 2011. Data from 130 eligible papers were extracted and summarized following a systematic scheme.
Results: Multiple FCR assessment methods were identified. Survivors reported low to moderate level of FCR but considered it as one of the top greatest concerns and the most frequently endorsed unmet need. FCR remains stable over the survivorship trajectory. Younger age, presence and severity of physical symptoms, psychological distress and lower quality of life were associated with higher FCR. Health behaviours, psychological reactions and functional impairments were identified as FCR consequences. Carers reported higher FCR than the patients. Limited data on interventions were available.
Conclusions: FCR research has expanded somewhat haphazardly over the last 20 years. Adopted consensual definition and used well-validated measures will be necessary. Longitudinal research examining the longer-term development and impact of FCR is clearly needed. The proposal and evaluation of theoretical models of FCR is a priority.
Implications for cancer survivors: Identifying the key features of FCR will stimulate the research and the development of targeted interventions for cancer survivors and their carers.