Tailoring cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat anxiety comorbid with advanced cancer

Joseph A. Greer, Elyse R. Park, Holly G. Prigerson, Steven A. Safren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Patients with advanced cancer often experience debilitating anxiety symptoms that interfere with quality of life and relate to worse medical outcomes. Although cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an empirically validated, first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, clinical trials of CBT for anxiety typically exclude patients with medical comorbidities in general, and those with terminal illnesses, such as advanced cancer, in particular. Moreover, CBT has generally targeted unrealistic fears and worries in otherwise healthy individuals with clinically significant anxiety symptoms. Consequently, traditional CBT does not sufficiently address the cognitive components of anxiety in patients with cancer, especially negative thought patterns that are rational but nonetheless intrusive and distressing, such as concerns about pain, disability, and death, as well as management of multiple stressors, changes in functional status, and burdensome medical treatments. In this article, we describe a treatment approach for tailoring CBT to the needs of this population. Three case examples of patients diagnosed with terminal lung cancer are presented to demonstrate the treatment methods along with outcome measures for anxiety and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-313
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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