Illness perceptions in chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Testing Leventhal's Self-regulatory Model

Travis D. Westbrook, Eleshia J. Morrison, Kami J. Maddocks, Farrukh T. Awan, Jeffrey A. Jones, Jennifer A. Woyach, Amy J. Johnson, John C. Byrd, Barbara L. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background Leventhal's Self-regulatory Model proposes that somatic characteristics of a health threat (e.g., symptom severity), and prior experience with the threat (e.g., unsuccessful treatment), are determinants of illness perceptions. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is appropriate for test of these postulates, having three phases differing in symptom severity and prior treatment experiences: indolent disease requiring no treatment (active surveillance; AS), symptomatic disease requiring a first treatment (FT), and highly symptomatic disease in those who have relapsed and/or failed to respond to prior treatments (relapsed/refractory; RR). Purpose To test symptom severity and prior treatment experiences as determinants of illness perceptions, illness perceptions were characterized and contrasted between CLL groups. Methods Three hundred and thirty CLL patients (AS, n = 100; FT, n = 78; RR, n = 152) provided illness perception data on one occasion during a surveillance visit (AS) or prior to beginning treatment (FT, RR). Results Analysis of variance with planned comparisons revealed that consequences, identity, and concern were least favorable among RR patients, followed by FT, then AS (ps < .01). AS patients endorsed the lowest levels of coherence (ps < .01), and the most chronic illness timeline (ps < .01). FT patients endorsed the highest levels of personal and treatment control (ps < .01). Conclusions Data provide preliminary empirical support for Self-regulatory Model postulates that symptom severity and prior disease experiences influence illness perceptions. Unique knowledge needs for AS patients and elevated psychological/physical symptoms for later-stage CLL patients may warrant clinical attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-848
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 16 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Active surveillance
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Illness perceptions
  • Relapsed refractory disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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