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Fear of cancer recurrence in oral and oropharangeal cancer patients: an investigation of the clinical encounter

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Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is common among individuals treated for cancer. Explorations of how this fear is expressed within an oncology setting and responded to are currently lacking. The aim was to investigate how head and neck cancer survivors in follow-up consultations express FCR, investigate how a healthcare professional addresses recurrence fears, and examine how survivors experience this interaction. We recorded the follow-up consultations of those participants who have reported FCR as a concern on the Patient Concerns Inventory. We also conducted a follow-up phone interview with the participants. We analysed the transcripts using thematic analysis. Five men and six women were recruited, aged 55–87 (mean age = 64). Follow-up consultation analyses revealed that the consultant used “normalising FCR,” “reassurance,” and “offer of referral to a counsellor.” Interviews revealed themes around how they coped with FCR, relevance of personal history on FCR, and the impact of feeling gratitude towards the consultant on expression of FCR. Analyses indicate that patients may feel reluctant to raise their FCR with their clinician for fear of appearing “ungrateful” or of damaging a relationship that is held in high esteem. Findings indicate the initiation of FCR with patients can be beneficial for patient support.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12785
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2017
StatePublished - Jan 2018

    Research areas

  • Fear of cancer recurrence, Consultations, Head and neck cancer, Communication, Emotional regulation

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