Cancer Worry in Women With Hereditary Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Lois J. Loescher

ONF 2003, 30(5), 767-772. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.767-772

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate symptom-based cancer worry in women who are at hereditary risk for breast cancer, specifically levels of worry, correlations of cancer worry, perceived cancer risk, and clinical signs or symptoms of breast cancer, as well as predictors of cancer worry.

Design: Cross-sectional, correlational.

Setting: Primarily the United States.

Sample: 200 women, aged 18-80, with no personal history of cancer, who met at least one established criterion of hereditary breast cancer risk were recruited primarily from a mammography facility and cancer prevention clinics or via network sampling.

Methods: Completion of the following self-report instruments: Thoughts About Cancer Scale and measures of clinical symptoms, perceived risk, and sample characteristics. Data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics, Pearson correlations, and binary logistic regression.

Main Research Variables: Cancer worry, total clinical signs of cancer, perceived cancer risk, age, and family history.

Findings: Participants sometimes worried about breast cancer but had more general breast cancer worry than worry based on perceived neutral or breast cancer-specific symptoms. Total clinical signs of breast cancer correlated significantly with cancer worry. Women aged 41-50 and those with more clinical signs of breast cancer were 3.76 and 1.49 times more likely to have high worry, respectively.

Conclusions: Moderate worry in high-risk women is not unusual. Total symptoms and younger age predict higher breast cancer worry, whereas perceived risk and family history do not.

Implications for Nursing: Counseling of young, high-risk women should include assessments of worry and clinical signs of breast cancer.

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