Illness perceptions predict health practices and mental health following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

Ashley M. Nelson, Mark B. Juckett, Christopher L. Coe, Erin S. Costanzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Beliefs about illness have been shown to shape health practices and coping efforts. The present study investigated illness perceptions among patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). We also examined the extent to which perceptions predicted health practices and mental health following transplant. Methods: Participants (N = 332) completed measures of illness perceptions (beliefs about cancer consequences and course, personal and treatment control over cancer, and understanding of one's cancer) prior to HSCT. Health practices (diet, physical activity, and alcohol use) and mental health (depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being) were assessed pre transplant and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months post transplant. Results: On average, HSCT recipients felt they understood their cancer, viewed their cancer to be a chronic condition with severe consequences, and believed they had moderate personal control over their cancer but that medical treatment provided more control. Perceptions varied by transplant type. Mixed-effects linear regression models revealed that HSCT recipients who perceived the consequences of their cancer to be more serious experienced more depression and anxiety, less well-being, and ate a healthier diet, but were less physically active during the year following transplant. Those with greater personal and treatment control ate a healthier diet and reported greater well-being. Patients with a better understanding of their cancer also ate a healthier diet and reported less depression, less anxiety, and greater well-being. Conclusions: Perceptions of cancer shape HSCT recipients' health practices and psychological well-being during the critical first year of recovery after transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1252-1260
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants R21 CA133343 and K07 CA136966 to E. Costanzo from the NCI, KL2 RR0205012 to E. Costanzo and UL1RR025011 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award program of the National Center for Research Resources, an award from the Forward Lymphoma Foundation to E. Costanzo, and P30 CA014520 to the UW Carbone Cancer Center from the NCI.

Funding Information:
National Cancer Institute, Grant/Award Numbers: K07 CA136966, P30 CA014520 and R21 CA133343; Forward Lymphoma Foundation; National Center for Research Resources, Grant/Award Numbers: KL2 RR0205012 and UL1RR025011

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • anxiety
  • cancer
  • depression
  • hematopoietic stem cell transplant
  • illness perceptions
  • oncology


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