Are women more afraid than men? Fear of recurrence in couples with cancer - predictors and sex-role-specific differences.

Purpose: Although fear of cancer recurrence (FoR) is one of the major concerns in cancer patients and their partners with approximately 49% reporting moderate to high FoR, few studies investigated predictors and sex-role-specific differences. The aim of the current study was to investigate FoR in couples with different types of cancer and to gain a deeper understanding of sex and role-specific differences and predictors of FoR in patients and partners.Design: Cross-sectional study in Germany.Sample:N = 188 couples with prostate (PC; n=52), laryngeal (LC; n=21) or breast cancer (BC; n=115) participated. All PC and LC patients were males, all BC patients were females.Methods: Fear of recurrence, depression, and relationship satisfaction were measured with validated questionnaires (Fear of Progression Questionnaire, Patient Health Questionnaire, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Quality of Marriage Index) in couples with PC, LC, or BC.Findings: Results indicated sex-role-specific differences. For women, FoR was higher for patients (M = 35.76) than for caregivers (M = 27.11). For males, spouses of women with BC (M = 30.1) showed higher FoR than male PC or LC patients (M = 24.9). Moreover, in couples there was a correlation between the FoR of one and the other (PC: r = .51, BC: r = .31, LC: r = .41). Depression was as a significant predictor, with a positive relationship to FoR. Moreover, in men with PC and LC besides depression, age emerged as significant predictor with a negative relationship to FoR. The Actor-Partner-Interdependence-Model showed for couples with PC or LC significant actor effects, both for patients and partners. Moreover, a significant partner effect emerged for patients' depression on partners' FoR. For couples with BC only significant actor effects occurred.Conclusions: FoR remains a major concern for both cancer patients and their partners. Implications for Psychosocial Providers or Policy: FoR should be considered both in cancer patients and their spouses. In addition, sex and role effects should be taken into account in treatment of FoR.

Journal of psychosocial oncology. 2020 Jun 26 [Epub ahead of print]

Pia Muldbücker, Diana Steinmann, Hans Christiansen, Martina de Zwaan, Tanja Zimmermann

Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany., Department of Radiation Therapy and Special Oncology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.