Illness representations and distress in women undergoing screening for familial ovarian cancer

Deborah Lancastle, Katherine Brain, Ceri Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women with a familial or genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer are at significantly increased risk of developing the disease, and this warrants effective risk management strategies. A clinical trial of ovarian cancer screening (OCS) is being conducted to establish the effectiveness of this risk management strategy. This article reports data from its psychological partner study which aims to evaluate the psychological effects of OCS. Leventhal's Self-Regulatory Model provided the theoretical framework for understanding emotional responses to OCS. The revised Illness Perceptions Questionnaire (IPQ-R) is based on this model and the IPQ-R, adapted to the risk of ovarian cancer, was completed by women (N=1999) prior to screening. The original IPQ-R factor structure was not replicated but IPQ-R variables explained 14.70% of the variance in women's ovarian cancer-specific distress after controlling for age, general anxiety and depression. Negative emotional representations of ovarian cancer risk and general anxiety were moderately associated with greater ovarian cancer specific distress whereas cognitive illness representations were weakly related to ovarian cancer-specific distress. Further analyses of data from the ongoing psychological evaluation are needed to determine the predictive utility of IPQ-R variables in explaining distress during OCS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1659 - 1677
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number12
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2011


  • ovarian cancer screening
  • health threat
  • ovarian cancer risk
  • Illness Perceptions Questionnaire (revised)
  • distress
  • psychological


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