Investigators in Barcelona, Spain, have demonstrated that a translation and cultural adaptation of the English-language Cancer Worry Scale is a valid and reliable scale for evaluating a healthy person’s concern about cancer.

People with a family history of cancer may have fears strong enough to keep them from undergoing preventive screening. Advice from genetic counselors can reduce such anxiety, but until now there has been no tool in the Spanish language for evaluating the effectiveness of this initiative, nor any instrument to evaluate the fear of suffering from cancer.

In the new research, 200 healthy women with a family history of breast cancer were administered the 6-item “Escala de Preocupación por el Cáncer (EPC)—the Spanish version of the Cancer Worry Scale. They answered such questions as, “How worried are you about the possibility of developing cancer one day?” by choosing from the following replies: worried, a bit worried, quite worried, or very worried.

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The simplicity of the questions and answers make it possible to easily quantify “something that is difficult to measure,” explained lead study author Esther Cabrera, director of the School of Health Sciences at the Mataró-Maresme Technocampus in Barcelona, in a statement announcing the findings, which were published in Medicina Clínica (2011;136[1]:8-12).

The tool can help health-care providers be aware of healthy patients who are unwilling to undergo preventive screening. “On many occasions, [the patients’] fears are related to their decision about whether or not to take preventive measures that would help them avoid cancer or diagnose it at a very early stage,” noted Cabrera.