Laboratory of Forensic Psychology, Moscow Regional Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry, Moscow, Russia
Fear of disease progression is one of the most common sources of psychological distress in patients suffering from chronic diseases. Fear of disease progression is a situationspecific and fully discernible (reportable) emotion based on personal experience of a life-threatening disease. This article presents the results of a study of cancer patients’ coping behavior according to the levels of fear of disease progression experienced. The presence of pronounced fear of disease progression reflects a negative cognitive-affective response to one’s expectations for one’s own future; this response is related to a decrease in adaptive capacity. To determine the particular characteristics of coping strategies and coping resources in women with reproductive-system cancers according to the level of fear of disease progression. A total of 177 women with reproductive-system cancers were examined, among them 59 with breast cancer and 118 with gynecological cancers. Women with reproductive-system cancers have varying sets of coping strategies and coping resources according to their level of fear of disease progression. For each of the differentiated groups, specific characteristics of the strategies of coping with difficult life situations are described, along with cognitive self-regulation strategies specific to the illness and to coping resources. The women exhibiting moderate fear of disease progression significantly more often adhered to problem-oriented strategies of coping with difficult life situations and illness and had an internal locus of control regarding treatment. Patients with a low level of fear of disease progression tended to use strategies of positive reinterpretation of difficult life situations and illness; an external locus of control regarding treatment prevailed in this group. Patients found to have a dysfunctional level of fear of disease progression displayed significantly higher rates of using cognitive-regulation strategies focused on negative aspects of illness, as well as strategies for avoiding difficult life situations. Fear of disease progression is a psychological problem in women with reproductive-system cancers. Higher levels of fear of disease progression are associated with a decrease in the psychosocial adaptation of women suffering from reproductivesystem cancers.
Keywords: female reproductive-system cancers, fear of disease progression, cognitive strategies for self-regulation in illness, locus of control in illness, self-efficacy in illness and treatment