The cancer’s gone but the fear remains: psychology researchers tackle fear of cancer recurrence

August 16, 2018

Sad girl sitting next to a windowA pilot study by Drs. Christina Tomei, Sophie Lebel, Christine Maheu, Monique Lefebvre, and Cheryl Harris suggests that specialized psychological services could help cancer survivors manage their fear of cancer returning. While this is a realistic fear for many cancer patients, it can cause some people significant suffering, and is associated with clinical anxiety and depression. In the study recently published in Supportive Care in Cancer, 19 patients with moderate to high fear of their cancer returning were randomly assigned to start six weeks of specialized therapy sessions immediately, or to start the therapy two to six weeks later. Those who participated experienced a significant decrease in fear of their cancer returning, and these levels were maintained or further decreased three months after the sessions ended. The research team will test these promising findings in a larger clinical trial to find out whether specialized group psychotherapy sessions reduce fear of cancer recurrence better than a typical cancer survivor support group.  Patients at The Ottawa Hospital who are afraid of cancer returning can self-refer to the Psychosocial Oncology Program, offered through the hospital, or review options in the community.

Funding: This research was possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital for Research to Improve Patient Care. The researchers have also received support from the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ottawa

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Amelia Buchanan
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Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
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