Illness perceptions of cancer patients: relationships with illness characteristics and coping

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Abstract

Objective:

Illness perceptions have proven to be predictive of coping and adjustment in many chronically ill patients. However, insights into illness perceptions of cancer patients are scarce. The purpose of the present study was to explore how a heterogeneous sample of cancer patients perceive their illness. We also examined the relationships between cancer patients' illness perceptions, their illness characteristics, and their coping strategies.

Methods:

Participants were 325 cancer patients of a generic nationwide longitudinal panel study among cancer patients in the Netherlands. They completed the revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (Winter 2011/2012) and the Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale (Spring 2012). Analyses of variance and linear regression analyses were conducted.

Results:

Patients' views on the chronicity of cancer vary, but many believe their illness to be long-lasting. Furthermore, they strongly believe the cancer treatment to be effective. People with skin cancer experience relatively little negative consequences (p< 0.01). Recently treated patients experience more negative consequences (p< 0.001) and perceive their illness as more chronic (p< 0.01). Surprisingly, neither perceptions of treatment control nor perceptions of personal control are related to specific ways of coping. However, more passive ways of coping were more often found in patients who perceived their illness as long-lasting, more emotionally burdening, and having more negative consequences.

Conclusions:

Our findings suggest that cancer patients might benefit more from support to alleviate the perceived severity and threat of their illness rather than from (further) strengthening their control beliefs. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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