Cancer patients with hematopoietic tumors exhibit particularly high rates of anxiety disorders and depression, and often develop negative affect. In addition, psychological problems experienced by cancer patients impair their quality of life. When cancer patients feel anxious, they tend to direct their attention toward stimuli associated with threat in the surrounding environment. If attentional bias occurs in patients with hematopoietic tumors, who are at particular risk of developing negative affect, resolution of the bias could be useful in alleviating their anxiety. The current study examined the association between attentional bias and negative affect in patients with hematopoietic tumors and tested the hypothesis that negative affect would be more severe in those who exhibited greater attentional bias. Twenty-seven patients with hematopoietic tumors participated in the study. Reaction time (RT) was measured as the time between the presentation of the threatening and neutral images, and the subject’s button press to indicate choice (neutral expressions). Eight combinations of “threatening” expressions with high emotional valence and “neutral” expressions with low emotional valence were presented. The images used to measure attentional bias were taken from the Japanese Female Facial Expression Database and had been rated as expressive of anger, sadness, or neutrality, with predetermined emotional valence. Psychological testing was performed with the Profile of Mood States (POMS). To examine the association between attentional bias and negative affect, we calculated Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients for RTs and POMS. Subjects’ mean RT was 882.9 (SD = 100.9) ms, and 19 of the 27 subjects exhibited slower RTs relative to healthy individuals. RT was significantly positively correlated with Tension-Anxiety (r = .679, p < .01) and Fatigue (r = .585, p < .01) subscale scores. The results of the study suggested that attentional bias toward threatening expressions could be positively correlated with the mental intensity of anxiety and fatigue in patients with hematopoietic tumors.
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