The impact of fear of cancer recurrence on healthcare utilization among long-term breast cancer survivors recruited through ECOG-ACRIN trials

Eric Vachon*, Ellen Krueger, Victoria L. Champion, David A. Haggstrom, David Cella, Andrea A. Cohee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the relationship between fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) and healthcare utilization among long-term breast cancer survivors (BCS). Methods: In a cross-sectional survey study, 505 younger survivors (YS: ≤45 years) and 622 older survivors (OS: 55–70 years) 3–8 years from diagnosis completed a questionnaire assessing demographics, medical history, FCR, and healthcare utilization. Healthcare utilization consisted of breast cancer (BC) and non-BC-related routine and nonroutine utilization. Results: YS had significantly higher FCR than OS (p < 0.01). Independent of age, FCR was significantly associated with all three types of BC-related utilization (p < 0.05). In the multivariate models, we found a significant, positive interaction effect between FCR and increased comorbidities on nonroutine BC appointments (p = 0.01) and BC-related emergency room visits (p = 0.03). Additionally, comorbidities were associated with non-BC-related utilization (p < 0.01), and nonwhites were more likely to utilize nonroutine resources, both BC and non-BC-related (p < 0.01). Conclusions: Increased FCR has been associated with hypervigilance among survivors and may lead to increased healthcare utilization. YS are at higher risk for increased FCR and psychosocial concerns, which may lead to overutilization. Providers should be aware that higher FCR may be related to increased use of healthcare resources and that these patients might be better served with supportive resources to increase quality of life and decrease inappropriate utilization. While this study provides increased evidence of the relationship between FCR and healthcare utilization, interventions are needed for survivors at risk to address unmet needs, especially as life expectancy increases among BCS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • breast cancer
  • cancer
  • fear of cancer recurrence
  • healthcare utilization
  • long-term breast cancer survivors
  • oncology
  • psycho-oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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