Conceptualization of Disease Timeline Predicts Posttreatment Distress in Breast Cancer Patients

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Abstract

A sample of 69 breast cancer patients was assessed before and after cessation of treatment to determine the predictors of posttreatment distress. Patients were assessed approximately 6 weeks before completing chemotherapy treatment, 1 month after completing treatment, and 3 months after completing treatment. Results indicate that timeline beliefs are related to distress: Patients who conceptualize their cancer as a chronic or cyclic illness are more anxious, depressed, and worried about a recurrence than patients who conceptualize their cancer as an acute illness. These findings hold true even while controlling for disease stage. The way patients conceptualize their illness appears to be more influential in determining levels of posttreatment distress than objective indicators of the likelihood of recurrence.

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