Objective: This prospective study assesses the roles of illness beliefs, emotion regulation factors, and sociodemographic characteristics in decisions to participate in a group support program for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Method: Women recruited during clinic visits 2 to 4 weeks after diagnosis completed measures of affective and cognitive factors identified by Leventhal’s Common-Sense Model of illness self-regulation: cancer-related distress, avoidance tendencies, beliefs that the breast cancer was caused by stress and altered immunity, and personal control beliefs. Measures of general anxiety and depression, social support, and demographic characteristics were also completed; prognostic status information was obtained from medical records. All women were encouraged to participate in a free, 12-week program offering coping skills training and group support. Participation was recorded by program staff.
Results: Of the 110 women, 54 (49%) participated in the group support program and 56 (51%) did not. Logistic regression analyses revealed that participation was predicted by stronger beliefs that the cancer was caused by altered immunity, higher cancer-related distress, lower avoidance tendencies, and younger age.
Conclusions: Participation in the group psychosocial support program appeared to be guided by cognitive and affective factors identified by the Common-Sense Model. Psychosocial support programs and informational materials promoting their use may attract more participants if they are tailored to focus on resolving cancer-related distress rather than on general anxiety or depression, appeal to those with high avoidance tendencies, address the role of immune function in cancer progression, and meet the needs of older participants.
RCT = randomized controlled trial; CSM = Common-Sense Model; IPQ-R = Illness Perceptions Questionnaire-Revised; RIES = Revised Impact of Events; Scale CES-D = Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.