Do Cancer-Related Beliefs Influence the Severity, Incidence, and Persistence of Psychological Symptoms?

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Abstract

Background:

Previous studies have suggested that negative beliefs about cancer may impair patients’ psychological well-being, but only a few of these studies focused on specific psychological symptoms, and many were cross-sectional.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to investigate longitudinally the relationship of cancer-related cognitions with the severity, incidence, and persistence of anxiety, fear of cancer recurrence, depression, and insomnia symptoms during an 18-month period.

Methods:

Patients scheduled to undergo surgery for cancer (N = 962) completed a questionnaire assessing cancer-related cognitions at baseline (T1), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the severity subscale of the Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory, and the Insomnia Severity Index at baseline (T1) and 2 (T2), 6 (T3), 10 (T4), 14 (T5), and 18 (T6) months later.

Results:

Group × time factorial analyses using mixed models revealed that participants endorsing more negative cancer-related cognitions consistently reported more severe symptoms throughout the 18-month period. Logistic regression analyses suggested that endorsing more negative cancer-related cognitions at T1 significantly increased incidence and persistence rates of clinical levels of psychological symptoms.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that the endorsement of negative cancer-related beliefs at the perioperative period influences the longitudinal evolution of anxiety, fear of cancer recurrence, depression, and insomnia symptoms in the following months.

Implications for Practice:

These results highlight the relevance of using cognitive restructuring early during the cancer care trajectory to potentially revise erroneous beliefs about cancer and prevent the incidence and persistence of psychological disturbances over time.

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