Purpose: The prevalence of clinical levels of fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) in cancer survivors is unknown, which may be partly explained by the lack of an assessment method that would make it possible to distinguish between normal and clinical levels of FCR. Moreover, despite the apparent overlap between FCR and manifestations of some psychiatric disorders, no study has yet evaluated the comorbidity of clinical levels of FCR. The goals of this study were to assess the capacity of the Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory severity subscale, to consider a shorter form of the FCRI (FCRI-SF), to screen for clinical levels of FCR, and to assess its psychiatric comorbidity.
Methods: Sixty French-Canadian cancer survivors (73% of those eligible) who had been treated within the past 4 years for localized breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer were randomly selected. Participants were administered a clinical interview assessing FCR, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, and self-report scales.
Results: A cutoff score of 13 or higher on the FCRI-SF was associated with optimal sensitivity (88%) and specificity (75%) rates for the screening of clinical levels of FCR. Cancer survivors with clinical levels of FCR were significantly more likely to meet the criteria for a current psychiatric disorder (60%) than patients with nonclinical levels (29%). Anxiety disorders tended to be the most common comorbid disorders.
Conclusions/implications for cancer survivors: The FCRI-SF allows rapid and effective screening of clinical levels of FCR, a condition associated with significant psychiatric comorbidity.