Social factors, unemployment and a prior history of melanoma are associated with greater baseline cancer worry among a group of patients with skin cancers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“Some degree of cancer worry was reported by almost all patients, which may be due to the stresses of a ‘cancer’ diagnosis and the uncertainty regarding prognosis,” Stephen Dusza, DrPH, of the dermatology service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and colleagues wrote. “After surgery scores were lower, suggesting treatment helps to mitigate overall worry and anxiety, although low levels may persist.”
A total of 637 patients presented to dermatologic surgery at a tertiary cancer center and prospectively completed the Cancer Worry Scale, which is part of the FACE-Q Skin Cancer Module, at baseline, before surgery. The scale ranges from 0 to 100, with higher values representing greater worry.
Items assessed in the Cancer Worry Scale include worry of recurrence, feeling anxiety about cancer, worry of cancer spreading, worry of cancer interfering with daily activities and relationships, among others.
Patients who completed the questionnaire after surgery (n = 222) had a mean time interval between surgery and survey completion of 8.3 weeks.
Patients reported significantly lower scores after surgery with a mean of 41.3 ± 20.5 (P < .001) compared with a score of 49.3 at baseline. The baseline scores show that a patient agreed with half of the cancer worry scale items.
Researchers identified numerous factors associated with greater baseline cancer worry including unmarried status, unemployment, living alone and a history of melanoma. Factors that did not correlate with increased cancer worry include gender, skin cancer type, anatomic location and tumor size.
Employment may provide collegial social support and focus away from the cancer, according to researchers.
“Although prior studies have shown that anxiety is associated with greater cancer worry, there was no clear relationship seen between history of anxiety and cancer worry in this cohort,” Dusza and colleagues wrote. – by Abigail Sutton
Disclosures: The research was funded in part by NIH/NCI Cancer Center. The authors report no other relevant financial disclosures.