Specialist breast cancer nurses' views on implementing a fear of cancer recurrence intervention in practice: a mixed methods study

Susanne Cruickshank, Emma Steele, Debbie Fenlon, Jo Arnes, Elspeth Banks, Gerald Humphris

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) in people with breast cancer affects treatment recovery, quality of life, service utilisation and relationships. Our aim was to investigate how Specialist Breast Cancer Nurses (SBCN) respond to their patients’ fears of cancer recurrence and analyse SBCN’s views about embedding a new psychological intervention, the Mini-AFTERc, into their consultations.

Method: A mixed methods sequential design was used, informed by normalisation process theory. Phase 1: UK SBCNs were emailed a web-based survey to investigate how breast cancer survivors’ FCR is currently identified and managed, and their willingness to utilise the Mini-AFTERc. Phase 2: a purposive sample of respondents (n=20) were interviewed to augment phase 1 responses, and explore views on the importance of addressing FCR, interest in the Mini-AFTERc intervention, its content, skills required and challenges to delivering the intervention.

Results: Ninety nurses responded to the survey. When SBCN’s were asked to identify the proportion of patients experiencing FCR in their caseload, there was no consensus on the size of the problem or unmet need. They estimated that 20-100% people experience moderate FCR and 10-70% severe FCR. The interviews identified that clinical conversations are focused primarily on giving information about signs and symptoms of recurrence rather than addressing the psychological aspects of fear.

Conclusion: Findings indicate wide variability in how FCR was identified, assessed and supported by a sample of UK SBCNs. The introduction of a structured intervention into practice was viewed favourably and has implications for nursing and health professional ways of working in all cancer services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201–210
Number of pages10
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number1
Early online date17 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Breast cancer
  • Fear of cancer recurrence
  • Normalisation process
  • Mixed methods
  • Mini-AFTERc intervention
  • Nurse
  • Nurse specialist


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