The aim of this study was to investigate fear of disease progression (FoP) during the year following diagnosis of breast cancer and its association with general self-efficacy (SE).
In a prospective study, 118 breast cancer patients were recruited shortly after diagnosis disclosure (response rate: 54%) and at 1-year follow-up (follow-up rate: 90%). Participants completed self-report measures of general self-efficacy (General Self-Efficacy Scale) and fear of progression (short form of the Fear of Progression Questionnaire).
Cross-sectional regression analysis revealed that high FoP is significantly associated with low SE, even when controlling for demographic and medical characteristics (total R² = 0.17). Having children and a relatively short time since diagnosis also significantly predicted higher FoP. Longitudinal analyses showed that FoP decreased significantly over time (p = 0.001; d = 0.25), but a significant decrease was only observed for patients with high initial FoP (p < 0.001; d = 0.74) and not for those with low initial FoP (p = 0.688; d = 0.08). SE was not a significant predictor of FoP at follow-up when controlling for initial FoP and other patient characteristics (incremental R² = 0.001; p = 0.674; total R² = 0.47). Overall, only initial FoP significantly predicted FoP at follow-up (p < 0.001; β = 0.671).
Findings that low SE is associated with high FoP can help to improve the treatment of dysfunctional fears in breast cancer patients. As FoP changes only slightly over time, treatment to enhance SE and reduce FoP should be initiated soon after disease disclosure.