Examining the preliminary efficacy of an intervention for fear of cancer recurrence in female cancer survivors: a randomized controlled clinical trial pilot study
Tomei, C.; Lebel, S.; Maheu, C.; Lefebvre, M.; Harris, C.
Supportive Care in Cancer: Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer 26(8): 2751-2762
Among cancer survivors, fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is the most frequently reported unmet need. Despite this, research on psychosocial interventions that target FCR is limited. To address this gap, an individual cognitive-existential psychotherapy intervention for FCR was pilot tested via small-scale RCT. Participants were recruited via study posters, healthcare professionals' referrals, and an electronic hospital database. Twenty-five female cancer survivors were randomized to experimental or wait-list control groups. Sessions included cognitive restructuring techniques, behavioral experiments, discussion of existential concerns, and relaxation exercises. Nineteen women completed the 6-week intervention and completed questionnaire packages at various time points. All participants completed self-administered questionnaires at pre-intervention (T1), post-intervention (T2), and at 3-month follow-up (T3). Participants in the control group also completed the same questionnaires, including at baseline (T0). Statistically significant results of between-within ANOVAs included time by condition interactions in the primary outcome measure of FCR and, for the experimental group participants, time by condition interactions in the secondary outcome measures of cancer-specific distress and uncertainty in illness. Statistically significant results of repeated measures ANOVAs included reductions in FCR, cancer-specific distress, uncertainty in illness, reassurance seeking, cognitive avoidance, and intolerance of uncertainty, as well as improvements in positive reinterpretation and growth, emotional coping, and quality of life (improved mental health), when compared to the control group. Most changes were maintained at 3-month follow-up. This intervention responds to a need for evidence-based individual modality interventions targeting quality of life in cancer survivors. Our results demonstrate preliminary promising results in addressing FCR in female cancer survivors. Future research could seek to replicate results with a larger sample. Further research is needed to test this intervention with patients of mixed cancer sites.