, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 471-479
Date: 29 Oct 2009

Evaluation of two group therapies to reduce fear of progression in cancer patients

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This paper aims to evaluate the effects of two psychotherapeutic interventions on dysfunctional fear of progression (FoP) in cancer patients and to investigate illness-specific influences.


One hundred seventy-four cancer patients were recruited from two rehabilitation clinics and randomly assigned to either a four-session cognitive-behavioral group therapy or a supportive-experiential group therapy. The main outcome criterion was FoP that was assessed with the Fear of Progression Questionnaire (FoP-Q) directly before (T1) and after (T2) the intervention, as well as 3 (T3) and 12 months (T4) after discharge. Secondary outcomes were anxiety, depression, and quality of life that were assessed with the following questionnaires: Questions on Life Satisfaction, Questionnaire for General Health Status, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Patients from the control group (n = 91) who received treatment as usual were recruited 1 year later with the same inclusion criteria and assessed with the FoP-Q at T1, T2, and T4.


Analyses showed a significant main effect for time and a significant interaction for group × time for the main outcome variable. FoP decreased significantly over time in both intervention groups in contrast to the control group that showed only short-term improvements. The interventions were also effective in improving secondary outcomes except general life satisfaction. Analyses of cancer specific influences on FoP indicated a significant influence of disease status, i.e., patients with metastases and recurrence of cancer gained most from the interventions.


Fear of progression, one of the main sources of distress for cancer patients, can be reduced with short psychotherapeutic interventions.