Community and Health Systems
Long‐term fear of recurrence in young breast cancer survivors and partners
My work focuses on helping partners of breast cancer survivors. Breast cancer survivors and their partners experience fear of recurrence, depression, anxiety, and other problems even years after a cancer diagnosis. These long-lasting consequences of cancer lead to overusing healthcare resources, using anti-depressants, and avoiding healthy behaviors that can reduce cancer risk. My early work established that partners fear cancer recurrence to the same degree as the breast cancer survivors. Based on this, I adapted a theoretical model to guide development of interventions and other programs to help partners. The theory proposes that social constraints, or behaviors from a significant other that limit communication about cancer (i.e. avoidance or minimizing concerns), disrupt partners’ healthy cognitive processing and lead to partners’ depression, anxiety, and fear of recurrence. I am currently building a tool to measure partners’ self-efficacy, or how well they can handle the difficult situation of cancer. With this key piece of information, I will be able to build evidence-based interventions for survivors and partners to reduce their fear of recurrence. Reducing fear of recurrence for survivors and their partners in the context of a couples’-based intervention has the potential to improve their overall quality of life.