Exploring Fear of Cancer Recurrence in a Sample of Heterogeneous Distressed Cancer Patients with and Without a Psychiatric Disorder

J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2021 Sep;28(3):419-426. doi: 10.1007/s10880-021-09776-2. Epub 2021 Jun 17.


Fear of Cancer Recurrence (FCR) is a concern among cancer patients. Recent insights suggest that FCR should be viewed as a distinct syndrome. However, few studies have explored its overlap with psychiatric morbidity. We examined this overlap in a sample of distressed cancer patients. Self-referred patients (n = 245) were assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis-I disorders and the Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory-Short Form. Proportions of patients with and without a psychiatric disorder meeting validated cut-offs for screening and clinically relevant FCR were compared. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders was 36%. Clinically relevant FCR was found in 198 patients (81%). Patients with a current psychiatric disorder reported clinically relevant FCR more frequently (89%) compared to those with no disorder (77%). Of patients reporting clinically relevant FCR, the majority (61%) did not additionally meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder. These findings suggest that there should be particular attention for patients with elevated levels of FCR, warranting FCR-specific treatment.Trial registry number Clinicaltrials.gov NCT02138513.

Keywords: Cancer; Fear of cancer recurrence; Oncology; Psychiatric disorder; Psychological distress.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders*
  • Prevalence

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02138513