Objective: Beliefs about illness have been shown to shape health practices and coping efforts. The present study investigated illness perceptions among patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). We also examined the extent to which perceptions predicted health practices and mental health following transplant.
Methods: Participants (N = 332) completed measures of illness perceptions (beliefs about cancer consequences and course, personal and treatment control over cancer, and understanding of one's cancer) prior to HSCT. Health practices (diet, physical activity, and alcohol use) and mental health (depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being) were assessed pre transplant and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months post transplant.
Results: On average, HSCT recipients felt they understood their cancer, viewed their cancer to be a chronic condition with severe consequences, and believed they had moderate personal control over their cancer but that medical treatment provided more control. Perceptions varied by transplant type. Mixed-effects linear regression models revealed that HSCT recipients who perceived the consequences of their cancer to be more serious experienced more depression and anxiety, less well-being, and ate a healthier diet, but were less physically active during the year following transplant. Those with greater personal and treatment control ate a healthier diet and reported greater well-being. Patients with a better understanding of their cancer also ate a healthier diet and reported less depression, less anxiety, and greater well-being.
Conclusions: Perceptions of cancer shape HSCT recipients' health practices and psychological well-being during the critical first year of recovery after transplant.
Keywords: anxiety; cancer; depression; hematopoietic stem cell transplant; illness perceptions; oncology.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.