Illness perceptions among carer-survivor dyads are related to psychological distress among Oesophageal cancer survivors

Martin Dempster, Noleen K McCorry, Emma Brennan, Michael Donnelly, Liam J Murray, Brian T Johnston
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2011, 70 (5): 432-9

OBJECTIVE: To examine the extent to which the illness perceptions of Oesophageal cancer survivors and the illness perceptions of their carers explain the survivors' levels of psychological distress (in terms of anxiety and depression symptoms) relative to demographic and biomedical variables and patients' coping strategies.

METHOD: Everyone registered with the Oesophageal Patients' Association in the UK was mailed a questionnaire booklet containing questions about medical and demographic variables, the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised, the Cancer Coping Questionnaire, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Patients were asked to pass a modified version of the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised to someone they identified as a carer. Complete responses were received from 317 dyads.

RESULTS: Regression models indicated that the variables measured could explain 56% of the variance in anxiety and 54% of the variance in depression. Patients' illness perceptions explained the majority of this variance. Positive focus coping strategies were also found to be important in explaining psychological well-being. Some of the carers' illness perceptions made a significant contribution to the explanation of the patients' levels of psychological distress, and in some instances, carer perceptions were found to moderate the relationship between patients' perceptions and psychological distress.

CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that cognition-based interventions could potentially be most effective in minimizing emotional distress among survivors of Oesophageal cancer. This study also shows that these interventions could usefully be delivered at the level of the patient-carer dyad.

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