Using Acupuncture to Address Fear of Recurrence among Survivors of Breast Cancer

  • Sommers E
  • Boehmer U
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Background Fear of Recurrence Several studies have evaluated long-term breast cancer survivors' quality of life, concluding that while most report good quality of life, a proportion of them have ongoing psychosocial problems.1 Of the psychosocial problems reported by survivors, fear of recurrence (FOR), a cancer-related anxiety stemming from the uncertainty or persistent worry about the cancer returning, is the most prevalent, reported by 50-80% of survivors.2-5 Studies have identified FOR as a consistent correlate of lower mental and physical quality of life in survivorship even after demographic factors have been controlled.6-14 Because of this strong and consistent relationship indicating the detrimental effects FOR has on survivors' quality of life, it is a key mechanism to be targeted by an intervention to improve long-term functioning in survivors. Effective interventions to alleviate cancer survivors' FOR have been currently found lacking. To make progress in this important area, we conducted a pilot study using acupuncture to address cancer survivors' FOR. Acupuncture was selected because existing literature supports its effectiveness to reduce anxiety, anxiety neuroses, and anxiety-related disorders.15-19 As a non-pharmacological approach to modulating anxiety, acupuncture is inherently free of medication side effects and other potentially hazardous cross-reactions with substances on a patient's medication list. Studies also support the effect of acupuncture in alleviating a variety of other cancer-related symptoms and improving quality of life.20

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acupuncture
  • Anxiety -- Prevention and Control
  • Breast Neoplasms -- Psychosocial Factors
  • Cancer Patients -- Evaluation
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Quality of Life -- Evaluation
  • Recurrence
  • Survival

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  • Elizabeth Sommers

  • Ulrike Boehmer

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