Leading academic, Dr Susanne Cruickshank from the University of Stirling, has been awarded over £23,600 from Breast Cancer Now to support her study into fear of breast cancer recurrence.
Living with fears about breast cancer recurrence affects how people recover and live their lives. The study will help health professionals identify patients who have moderate to high levels of fear and deliver an intervention that improves their ability to live their life with a better quality of outlook.
Dr Cruickshank and her team will explore the feasibility of using an intervention called ‘Mini-AFTER’, which has been designed to identify and address fear of cancer recurrence. Mini-AFTER is a brief, 30 minute telephone call that builds on the success of a longer six-session programme called AFTER, which has already been shown to help improve quality of life for people living after cancer.
As part of the research, Dr Cruickshank will survey specialist breast cancer nurses across the UK to establish current working practices on how they identify and work with breast cancer patients to provide support on fears of recurrence. This will be followed by more in-depth interviews with a smaller group of nurses to explore the challenges, barriers and opportunities of introducing this specific intervention into clinical settings.
The long-term goal for the project is to ensure that patients have access to effective interventions that can reduce anxiety and fear associated with their cancer recurring and improve their ability to live their life fully. It also seeks to ensure that health professionals are provided with the right support, training and skills to use these interventions in their practice. This pilot work will inform a future trial.
Dr Susanne Cruickshank said:
“Whilst many breast cancer patients will survive breast cancer thanks to investment in research, the fear of cancer returning is a major concern among survivors. Breast cancer can return any time after treatment, sometimes up to 20 years or more post diagnosis. It’s this fear of the unknown that can cause distress.
“Understandably, this can severely impact a person’s quality of life and can lead to anxiety, loss of sleep and frequent intrusive thoughts. That’s why it’s important that we develop and successfully deliver new methods to help survivors manage this fear.”
Mary Allison, Director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“We know that fear and anxiety is an entirely natural response to the threat of cancer returning.
“For many women, this may be short lived but for some they can experience problematic anxiety levels for longer periods of time. That’s why we need to understand how best to manage this fear.
“More than 46,000 women in Scotland living today have had a breast cancer diagnosis in the last 20 years. We hope this research can help women with breast cancer to have the best quality of life after their treatment.”