Novel Intervention May Improve Fear of Recurrence Among Cancer Survivors

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Researchers enrolled survivors of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or melanoma to participate in ConquerFear or a control intervention.
Researchers enrolled survivors of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or melanoma to participate in ConquerFear or a control intervention.

ConquerFear, a theory-guided intervention, improves the fear of cancer recurrence among survivors in comparison with a control intervention, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.1

Fear of cancer recurrence is a common and serious issue among survivors and can seriously affect quality of life. The issue is often overlooked, with few trials evaluating methods for improving the problem.

For this randomized study, researchers enrolled survivors of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or melanoma to participate in ConquerFear or a control intervention, Taking-it-Easy, and to complete accompanying questionnaires at baseline (T0), just after therapy completion (T1), and at 3 and 6 months thereafter (T2 and T3, respectively). The primary study endpoint was the degree of change in the fear of cancer recurrence inventory (FCRI) questionnaire, the scores of which ranged from 0 to 168, 168 indicating the worst fear of disease recurrence.

Both interventions require therapists, but ConquerFear involves strategies for controlling worry among survivors and education about recurrence-prevention techniques. Taking-it-East involves strategies to help survivors relax, including passive muscle relaxation and meditation.

Of 987 survivors invited to participate, 222 were assigned to ConquerFear (121 survivors) or to Taking-it-Easy (101 survivors). Fewer participants completed the FCRI at each time point, from 112 in ConquerFear and 98 in Taking-it-Easy at T0 to 78 in ConquerFear and 74 in Taking-it-Easy at T3. Baseline FCRI scores were similar, at a mean of 82.7 in ConquerFear and 85.3 in Taking-it-Easy.

Score changes were larger at each measured time point. At T3, participants in ConquerFear had a mean FCRI score of 55.5 vs 67.5 in Taking-it-Easy, representing a -26.9-point vs a -19.1-point change, respectively (P = .0176).

The authors also noted that psychological distress and cancer-specific distress remained significantly better in the ConquerFear group at T3.

They concluded, however, that the “trial did not adjust for multiple comparisons, and statistically significant results could have appeared by chance because of multiple comparisons. Additional research is needed.”

Reference

  1. Butow PN, Turner J, Gilchrist J, et al. Randomized trial of ConquerFear: a novel, theoretically based psychosocial intervention for fear of cancer recurrence. J Clin Oncol. 2017 Nov 2. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.73.1257 [Epub ahead of print]

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