Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2651–2659

Fear of cancer recurrence in young women with a history of early-stage breast cancer: a cross-sectional study of prevalence and association with health behaviours


    • Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-Based Decision Making, School of PsychologyUniversity of Sydney
  • P. Butow
    • Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-Based Decision Making, School of PsychologyUniversity of Sydney
  • M. L. Bell
    • Psycho-Oncology Cooperative Research Group (PoCOG), School of PsychologyUniversity of Sydney
  • J. Beith
    • Department of Medical Oncology, Sydney Cancer CentreRoyal Prince Alfred Hospital
  • R. Stuart-Harris
    • Medical Oncology DepartmentThe Canberra Hospital
  • M. Grossi
    • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • A. Capp
    • Department of Radiation OncologyCalvary Mater
  • D. Dalley
    • Department of Medical OncologySt Vincent’s Hospital
  • the FCR Study Advisory Committee
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-011-1371-x

Cite this article as:
Thewes, B., Butow, P., Bell, M.L. et al. Support Care Cancer (2012) 20: 2651. doi:10.1007/s00520-011-1371-x



Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is common and associated with younger age. This study aimed to explore the prevalence and correlates of FCR amongst younger survivors of early breast cancer.


A total of 218 women aged 18–45 were diagnosed with stage 0–2 breast cancer at least 1 year earlier.


The participants completed a web-based survey including a validated measure of FCR and items exploring medical surveillance practices and health care use.


A total of 70% of participants reported clinical levels of FCR. Higher FCR was associated with higher frequency of unscheduled visits to the GP, higher frequency of breast self-examination and other forms of self-examination for cancer, not having mammograms or ultrasounds or other forms of cancer screening in the past year, more complementary therapy use and the use of counselling and support groups.


Young women with breast cancer are particularly vulnerable to FCR. The present study provides preliminary evidence that FCR is associated with higher health costs and lower surveillance rates which may compromise health outcomes. Routine screening for FCR in follow-up care is recommended.


Fear of recurrenceCancerOncologyHealth behavioursHealth service use

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012