Extant literature on the relationship between cancer fatalism and psychological distress among Chinese American breast cancer survivors has been mixed, and few studies have examined potential mediators of this relationship. The current study examined how cancer fatalism is associated with psychological distress by investigating perceived personal control and fear of cancer recurrence as mediators, and acculturation as a moderator of these relationships.
A total of 220 Chinese American women diagnosed with stage 0–III breast cancer were recruited from California cancer registries and completed a telephone survey. The measurement of cancer fatalism examined one’s view of health as a result of destiny. Validated measures of psychological distress (i.e., depressive and anxiety symptoms), fear of cancer recurrence, and perceived personal control were used. Acculturation was defined by English proficiency, preferred interview language, and number of years lived in the USA.
Higher cancer fatalism was directly associated with greater depressive and anxiety symptoms after controlling for covariates. This association was also mediated by higher fear of cancer recurrence, but not by perceived control. The mediation was not moderated by acculturation.
Our findings suggest that Chinese American breast cancer survivors’ fatalistic beliefs may exacerbate fear of cancer recurrence, and, in turn, depressive and anxiety symptoms. Fear of recurrence was more salient than perceived control in their associations with psychological distress among Chinese American cancer survivors. Future intervention research may adopt cognitive approaches to alter Chinese survivors’ fatalistic views of health outcomes to reduce their psychological distress.