Objective: Men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer (lPCa) are confronted with the decision for a treatment strategy, potentially experiencing treatment side effects and psychological distress. The Common Sense Model proposes that coping with such challenges is related to illness representations: Beliefs regarding consequences, coherence, timeline, and controllability of the illness. We analyzed the interplay of illness representations, coping and anxiety over an 18-month period among men with lPCa undergoing different treatment options (Active Surveillance, curative treatment).
Methods: In this longitudinal study, 183 men (age M = 66.83) answered a questionnaire before starting treatment, and 6, 12, and 18 months later. We analyzed time trajectories with growth curve modeling and conducted mediation analyses to evaluate the influence of coping on the association of illness representations and anxiety. Using a novel methodological approach, we compared a classic parallel mediation model with a level-contrast approach for the correlated mediators problem- and emotion-focused coping.
Results: Independent of treatment (b = 1.31, p = 0.200) men reported an elevated level of anxiety after diagnosis which declined considerably within the following 6 months (b = -1.87, p = 0.009). The perceived seriousness of consequences was significantly associated with greater anxiety, at baseline (β = 0.471) and over time (all β ≥ 0.204). This association was mediated by coping: Using more emotion-than problem-focused coping was associated with higher anxiety.
Conclusions: Receiving a lPCa diagnosis is associated with a phase of increased anxiety. In order to reduce anxiety, information provision should be accompanied by developing concrete action plans to enable problem-focused coping strategies.