Does cancer type influence the impact of recurrence? a review of the experience of patients with breast or prostate cancer recurrence

Ross James Stewart*, Gerald Michael Humphris, Jayne Donaldson, Susanne Cruickshank

*Corresponding author for this work

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Patients will experience a plethora of issues when faced with a recurrence of their cancer. It is unclear if cancer type is a significant factor in how recurrence is experienced by an individual. The aim of the current review is to explore the evidence base and summarise the experiences of patients specifically with a recurrence of breast or prostate cancer (the most common for women and men, respectively) and then provide a comparison of these experiences. These experiences include the physical, psychological and psychosocial issues that arise at this time.


A systematic search was conducted of studies published between January 1994 and April 2019. Due to the mix of research designs used previously in the literature, this review was conducted in an integrative manner; allowing for inclusion of diverse research designs. Results were synthesised narratively, with data categorised according to physical, psychological, and psychosocial indices of quality of life. The review protocol was registered in the international database of prospective systematic reviews in health and social care- (CRD42019137381).


Fifteen breast cancer and six prostate cancer articles were identified, each reporting one relevant study. Patients reported several negative issues at the time of a breast or prostate cancer recurrence. Similarities were found between cancer types, with physical problems such as fatigue, psychological issues including anxiety and depressive symptoms, and psychosocial concerns such as issues with healthcare professionals common in both cancers. Certain findings were inconsistent across studies, with some experiences differing between studies rather than due to cancer type.


Differences in the experience of recurrent cancer appear to be more heavily influenced by individual factors, rather than cancer type. Findings are confounded by gender; and should be considered preliminary. Effects of recurrence should be studied in samples where cancer type and gender are not confounded. Concerns are raised about available study quality and differing outcome measures in this interpretation. Care and support of the individual at the time of a cancer recurrence is a key focus. Future research suggestions with implications for clinical practise are included.

Original languageEnglish
Article number635660
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


  • Breast cancer
  • Oncology
  • Prostate cancer
  • Integrative review
  • Quality of life
  • Cancer recurrence


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