Lived Experiences and Fear of Cancer Recurrence Among Survivors of Localized Cutaneous Melanoma

Ayisha N. Mahama, Courtney N. Haller, Jocelyn Labrada, Christie I. Idiong, Alex B. Haynes, Elizabeth A. Jacobs, Joel Tsevat, Michael P. Pignone, Adewole S. Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Most of the rapid increase in cutaneous melanoma incidence in the US has been localized disease that is treated surgically and is associated with high survival rates. However, little is known about the psychological well-being of survivors in the US. Objective: To explore the lived experiences and fear of cancer recurrence among survivors of localized cutaneous melanoma. Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a qualitative and survey-based study that used semistructured interviews and the Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory short form (FCRI-SF) survey tool with participants recruited from an academic dermatology practice affiliated with the University of Texas, Austin. Interviews were completed via telephone or in person from August 2021 to September 2022. Each of the 9 items in the FCRI-SF was rated on a 5-point Likert scale, scored from 0 to 4, with a maximum possible score of 36 points. Data analyses were performed from February 2022 to June 2023. Main Outcomes and Measures: Semistructured interviews were analyzed for themes and subthemes associated with the lived experiences of survivors of cutaneous melanoma. The FCRI-SF scores were tabulated, with scores of 13 or greater identifying potential cases of clinically significant fear of cancer recurrence. Results: In all, 51 participants (mean [SD] age, 49.5 [11.7] years; 34 [67%] female and 17 [33%] male) with a history of localized melanoma (stage 0-IIA) completed the interview and survey. Among them, 17 (33%) had survived a diagnosis of stage 0 melanoma, and the remainder, at least 1 invasive melanoma diagnosis (stage I-IIA). Semistructured interviews revealed several themes: (1) emotions surrounding follow-up appointments, (2) intensity of melanoma surveillance, (3) lifestyle changes regarding sun exposure, and (4) thoughts about life and death. Thirty-eight of 51 participants had an FCRI-SF score above the threshold for clinical fear of cancer recurrence. Conclusions and Relevance: This qualitative and survey-based study found that despite having an excellent prognosis, some survivors of localized melanoma, even those who had stage 0, have high rates of fear of cancer recurrence and intense survivorship experiences that affect their psychological well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-501
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 15 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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