The role of information coping style and treatment method on anxiety in cancer patients

Published on March 23 2018 –  Studies on anxiety within oncology show a high prevalence of anxiety both during and after the course of the disease. However, little is known about factors that influence the level of anxiety in the diagnostic phase.

In this study we examined the presence of anxiety during diagnosis and treatment planning and explored how a monitoring (ie, information seeking) coping style and the suggested treatment plan (ie, with or without chemotherapy) interact with anxiety. Therefore, 81 colorectal cancer patients filled in anxiety questionnaires before and after the consultation with their doctor.

More than half (59%) of the patients were classified as highly anxious before consultation. Although anxiety scores significantly decreased after consultation (t = 3.149, P = .002), 37% of the patients remained highly anxious. Reductions in anxiety were specifically observed for patients with a higher monitoring coping style and patients for whom a treatment plan without chemotherapy was proposed. Interestingly, high monitors for whom treatment without chemotherapy was proposed showed a major decrease in anxiety, whereas low monitors for whom treatment starting with chemotherapy was proposed showed a great increase in anxiety.

In conclusion, this study shows that the diagnostic phase is associated with high levels of anxiety. Besides, distinct patterns of anxiety were identified, depending on patients’ coping style and the suggested treatment plan. Remarkably, patients who have a tendency to avoid detailed medical information seek became particularly anxious when they were advised to start treatment with chemotherapy.

This study was funded by the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF).

Read more? Bronner, MB, Nguyen, MH, Smets, EMA, Ven, AWH, & Weert, JCM (2017). Anxiety during cancer diagnosis: Examining the influence of monitoring coping style and treatment plan. Psycho‐Oncology, 27(2), 661-667

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