Purpose: Close relationships can be strained by losses related to independence, autonomy, and separation after diagnosis of severe illness. The perceived quality of their close relationships affects individuals’ psychological adaptation in this context. We explored the level of perceived relatedness and its impact on demoralization and death acceptance. We further examined a possible protective effect of perceived relatedness on the association between tumor stage and death acceptance.
Methods: For this observational study, we consecutively recruited gynecology outpatients and general surgery inpatients at the University Cancer Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and oncological inpatients at the LungenClinic Grosshansdorf, Germany. At baseline, 307 patients (age M = 59.6, 69% female, 69% advanced cancer) participated. At 6- and 12-month (T3) follow-up, 213 and 153 patients responded, respectively. Patients completed self-report questionnaires including a modified version of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory assessing perceived relatedness, the Life Attitude Profile-Revised assessing death acceptance, the Demoralization Scale, and the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale assessing symptom burden. We calculated multiple linear regression analyses controlling for demographic and disease-related factors.
Results: Participants reported a stronger perceived relatedness at baseline (M = 3.04, SE = 0.03, possible range 0–4) than at T3 (M = 2.93, SE = 0.04; p = 0.02). Perceived relatedness significantly predicted lower demoralization at T3 but did not moderate the relationship between tumor stage and demoralization. Apart from male gender, none of the predictor or moderator variables had a significant impact on death acceptance at T3.
Conclusions: The strong impact of perceived relatedness on existential distress emphasizes the importance of strengthening interpersonal relationships within psychosocial interventions.
OBJECTIVE: Death acceptance may indicate positive adaptation in cancer patients. Little is known about what characterizes patients with different levels of death acceptance or its impact on psychological distress. We aimed to broaden the understanding of death acceptance by exploring associated demographic, medical and psychological characteristics.
METHODS: At baseline, we studied 307 mixed cancer patients attending the University Cancer Center Hamburg and a specialized lung cancer center (age M=59.6, 69% female, 69% advanced cancer). At one-year follow-up, 153 patients participated. We assessed death acceptance using the validated Life Attitude Profile-Revised. Patients further completed the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale, the Demoralization Scale, the Patient Health Questionnaire, and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire. Statistical analyses included multinomial and hierarchical regression analyses.
RESULTS: At baseline, mean death acceptance was 4.33 (SD=1.3, range 1-7). There was no change to follow-up (p=.26). When all variables were entered simultaneously, patients who experienced high death acceptance were more likely to be older (OR=1.04, 95%CI 1.01-1.07), male (OR=3.59, 95%CI 1.35-9.56), widowed (OR=3.24, 95%CI 1.01-10.41), and diagnosed with stage IV (OR=2.44, 95%CI 1.27-4.71). They were less likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer (OR=.20, 95%CI .07-.58) and their death acceptance was lower with every month since diagnosis (OR=.99, 95%CI.98-.99). High death acceptance predicted lower demoralization and anxiety at follow-up, but not depression.
CONCLUSIONS: High death acceptance was adaptive. It predicted lower existential distress and anxiety after one year. Advanced cancer did not preclude death acceptance, supporting the elaboration of death-related concerns in psychosocial interventions.
Objective: The prevalence of depression as well as adjustment and anxiety disorders is high in advanced cancer patients, and research exploring intraindividual factors leading to high psychological distress is underrepresented. Cancer patients' feelings about security and trust in their healthcare providers have a significant influence on how they deal with their disease. The perception of social support is affected by patients' attachment styles and influences their reactions to feelings of dependency and loss of control. We therefore aimed to explore attachment and its association with psychological distress in patients with advanced cancer.
Method: We obtained data from the baseline measurements of a randomized controlled trial in advanced cancer patients. Patients were sampled from the university medical centers of Hamburg and Leipzig, Germany. The main outcome measures included the Patient Health Questionnaire, the Death and Dying Distress Scale, the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale, and the Experience in Close Relationships Scale for assessing attachment insecurity.
Results: A total of 162 patients were included. We found that 64% of patients were insecurely attached (fearful-avoidant 31%, dismissing 17%, and preoccupied 16%). A dismissing attachment style was associated with more physical symptoms but did not predict psychological distress. A fearful-avoidant attachment style significantly predicted higher death anxiety and depression, whereas preoccupied attachment predicted higher death anxiety only. Overall, insecure attachment contributed to the prediction of depression (10%) and death anxiety (14%).
Significance of results: The concept of attachment plays a relevant role in advanced cancer patients' mental health. Healthcare providers can benefit from knowledge of advanced cancer patients' attachment styles and how they relate to specific mental distress. Developing a better understanding of patients' reactions to feelings of dependency and distressing emotions can help us to develop individually tailored advanced cancer care programs and psychotherapeutic interventions.
BACKGROUND: Advanced diseases pose a great burden on patients and go hand in hand with existential concerns. Demoralization is considered as a syndrome of existential distress with a perceived inability to cope with loss of meaning in life and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Professional health care providers play an important role in providing support for patients and unfavorable conversational styles in their relationship can increase patient's distress. In this study we examine the association between the patient's perceived relationship to health care providers and demoralization.
METHODS: We used baseline data of a randomized control trial intervention study for advanced cancer patients (UICC-Stage = III; PHQ = 9 and/or Distress-Thermometer = 5). We used a subscale of the QUAL-EC-P for assessing doctor-patient relationship, Beck Depression Inventory-II for depressive symptoms, a modified version of the MSAS as physiological symptom checklist and the Demoralization scale to assess demoralization. A hierarchical regression analysis was calculated.
RESULTS: In our sample of 187 patients with stage III or IV cancer (62% women) demoralization was present in 53.4% (16% moderate demoralization; 37.4% high demoralization) of the patients. Relationship to health care provider was an independent predictor (ß=-.33, t(186)=-6.70, p<.001) of demoralization.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings underline the importance of the physician-patient relationship in the context of coping with existential challenges in advanced cancer patients. Trainings on how to communicate and build a sustainable relationship with patients and their specific needs may increase the buffering effect of social support by the physicians on patient's existential distress.
BACKGROUND: Approximately 10% of the individuals experiencing the death of a loved one develop prolonged grief disorder (PGD) after bereavement. Family members of haematological cancer patients might be particularly burdened since their loss experience is preceded by a very strenuous time of disease and aggressive treatment. However, support needs of relatives of cancer patients often remain unmet, also after the death of the patient. Therapeutic possibilities are enhanced by providing easily available and accessible Internet-based therapies. This study will adapt and evaluate an Internet-based grief therapy for bereaved individuals after the loss of a significant other due to haematological cancer.
METHODS: The efficacy of the Internet-based grief therapy is evaluated in a randomized controlled trial with a wait-list control group. Inclusion criteria are bereavement due to hematological cancer and meeting the diagnostic criteria for PGD. Exclusion criteria are severe depression, suicidality, dissociative tendency, psychosis, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, and current psychotherapeutic or psychopharmacological treatment. The main outcome is PGD severity. Secondary outcomes are depression, anxiety, somatization, posttraumatic stress, quality of life, sleep quality, and posttraumatic growth. Data is collected pre- and posttreatment. Follow-up assessments will be conducted 3, 6, and 12 months after completion of the intervention. The Internet-based grief therapy is assumed to have at least moderate effects regarding PGD and other bereavement-related mental health outcomes. Predictors and moderators of the treatment outcome and PGD will be determined.
DISCUSSION: Individuals bereaved due to haematological cancer are at high risk for psychological distress. Tailored treatment for this particularly burdened target group is missing. Our study results will contribute to a closing of this healthcare gap.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: German Clinical Trial Register UTN: U1111-1186-6255 . Registered 1 December 2016.
CONTEXT: Quality of life is a central focus of care in advanced cancer. Specialized instruments, such as the QUAL-EC, may be useful to assess psychosocial issues associated with quality of life unique to this population.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the measurement of the psychosocial dimensions of quality of life using the German translation of the QUAL-EC-Cancer-Psychosocial Questionnaire (QUAL-EC-P), including factor structure and psychometrics.
METHODS: 183 patients with advanced cancer from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and University Medical Center Leipzig completed the QUAL-EC-P. We conducted exploratory factor analysis, and item and reliability analysis. We examined convergent validity with correlations between the scale and relevant psychological constructs.
RESULTS: The sample was 60% female with mean age of 57.7 (SD=11.7). We extracted three factors accounting for 44% of the variance aligning with the structure of the instrument. The QUAL-EC-P showed good to acceptable internal consistency for the QoL-psychosocial total score (a=0.77), the Life Completion subscale (a=0.77) and the Relationship with Healthcare Provider subscale (a=0.81). The Preparation for End of Life subscale had adequate albeit low internal consistency (a=0.64) because concerns about family were less associated with financial worry and fear of death than expected. The psychosocial dimensions of QoL correlated negatively with depression (r=-0.27, p=0.001), anxiety (r=-0.32, p=0.001), demoralization (r=-0.63, p=0.001), attachment insecurity (r=-0.51, p=0.001) and positively with spiritual well-being (r=0.63, p=0.001).
CONCLUSION: The QUAL-EC-P may be used to assess the psychosocial aspects of quality of life and promote their clinical discussion in patients with advanced cancer.