Intimacy as a mediator of the association between relationship events and fear of recurrence in couples coping with early-stage breast cancer

Pasipanodya, Elizabeth
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University of Delaware
Fear of recurrence (FOR) is a concern that remains relevant to the well-being of women that have had breast cancer, even years after diagnosis. Partners of breast cancer survivors also harbor, and are affected by, their own concerns of cancer recurrence. Although FOR has been associated with psychological distress, little longitudinal work has examined factors that prospectively predict FOR, and no past research has examined predictors in the context of everyday life. The present study focused on daily relationship factors that may have an influence on both partners' FOR. It was hypothesized that intimacy would mediate the relationship between positive and negative daily relationship events and the experience of FOR. Forty-four women with breast cancer and their partners completed a daily online diary for 10 consecutive evenings. Dyadic multilevel modeling revealed that the daily experience of relationship events could influence the experience of FOR in both breast cancer patients and their partners through changes in relational intimacy. Specifically, the occurrence of positive relationship events, independent of the occurrence of negative relationship events, was found to predict higher evening intimacy and, in turn, lower FOR. The occurrence of negative relationship events, independent of the occurrence of positive relationship events, also predicted lower intimacy which, in turn, predicted higher FOR. These findings help to expand our knowledge of the progression of FOR in the everyday lives of couples coping with breast cancer.