To examine the role of differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) patients' age in illness perceptions and psychological distress, and the potential moderating role of age in the relationship between illness perceptions and psychological distress.
We used the Netherlands Cancer Registry to select all patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 1990 and 2008 (n = 568). Patients filled out the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire. Levels of psychological distress and illness perceptions were compared between the different DTC survivor age groups (adolescents and young adults [AYAs; 18-39 years], middle-aged adults [40-64 years], and older survivors [65-84 years]).
Among 293 respondents with DTC, AYAs (n = 84) had more faith in the fact that their treatment can help them, and reported a stronger belief in understanding their illness compared to middle-aged (n = 172) and older adults (n = 37). No differences regarding age were seen on the other six illness perception subscales. AYAs did report significantly less distress (HADS caseness = 13.8%) compared to middle-aged (28.7%) and older adults (22.2%). Most illness perception subscales were associated with distress and the associations with age were mixed. AYAs and older patients who believed that their illness would continue for a long time reported more distress, but this association was not found for the middle-aged group.
Illness perceptions play a key role in the experience of distress years after diagnosis and this is related to age. AYA and older cancer patients may be particularly vulnerable to distress related to maladaptive cancer-related beliefs/perceptions.
- HEALTH LITERACY
- YOUNG-ADULT CANCER
- illness perceptions
- psychological distress
- thyroid cancer