Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 521–531

Psychosocial factors in adjuvant hormone therapy for breast cancer: an emerging context for adherence research

  • Julia R. Van Liew
  • Alan J. Christensen
  • Janet S. de Moor

DOI: 10.1007/s11764-014-0374-2

Cite this article as:
Van Liew, J.R., Christensen, A.J. & de Moor, J.S. J Cancer Surviv (2014) 8: 521. doi:10.1007/s11764-014-0374-2



For patients with hormone receptor positive breast cancer, survivorship entails prolonged self-management of adjuvant treatment in the form of daily hormone therapy. Although sustained daily adherence across the 5-year course of therapy is associated with improved recurrence-free survival outcomes, adherence is suboptimal and many women discontinue hormone therapy prematurely. Factors associated with breast cancer survivors’ nonadherence and nonpersistence are not comprehensively understood. Furthermore, psychosocial variables have only received limited research attention, despite their documented relationships with adherence in other chronic illness populations.


A systematic literature review identified 14 studies that analyzed relationships between psychosocial factors and breast cancer survivors’ adherence and/or persistence with adjuvant hormone therapy.


Although identified relationships were complex and at times inconsistent, salient conclusions emerged. Interpersonal factors, in the form of positive social support and patient-centered interactions with medical providers, as well as intrapersonal factors, such as anxiety and beliefs about the relative benefits of medication use, were reliably associated with better adherence and persistence. Depression did not demonstrate the negative impact on adherence that has been observed in other medical populations. No relationships between quality of life and adherence were identified.


Adjuvant hormone therapy appears to be a unique context for medication adherence, which warrants further attention and more rigorous analysis in future research.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Individual patients’ psychosocial characteristics and health care preferences should be considered when striving to optimize medication adherence.


Psychosocial Breast cancer survivorship Adjuvant hormone therapy Tamoxifen Aromatase inhibitor Adherence 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia R. Van Liew
    • 1
  • Alan J. Christensen
    • 2
  • Janet S. de Moor
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology and Internal MedicineThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  3. 3.Health Services and Economics Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population SciencesNational Cancer Institute/NIHBethesdaUSA

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