A new study finds that that nearly one in four women (23 percent) newly diagnosed with breast cancer reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shortly after diagnosis.
Researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center say the study is one of the first to assess the course of PTSD after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
“We analyzed interview responses from more than 1,100 women,” said Alfred I. Neugut, M.D., Ph.D.
“During the first two to three months after diagnosis, nearly a quarter of them met the criteria for PTSD, although the symptoms declined over the next three months. Younger women were more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD, and data suggest Asian and black women are at a more than 50 percent higher risk than white women.”
The study has been e-published ahead of print in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The 1,139 research participants were part of the 2006-2010 Breast Cancer Quality of Care Study (BQUAL), and included women over the age of 20, with newly diagnosed breast cancer, stages I to III.
Each participant completed three phone interviews. The first was two to three months after diagnosis and before the third chemotherapy cycle, if the patient was receiving chemotherapy. The second interview was four months after diagnosis, and the third was six months after diagnosis.
“The ultimate outcome of this research is to find ways to improve the quality of patients’ lives,” said Neugut, an oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.
“If we can identify potential risk factors for PTSD, when women are diagnosed with breast cancer, we could provide early prevention and intervention to minimize PTSD symptoms. This approach might also have an indirect impact on the observed racial disparity in breast cancer survival.”
The research team believes that these findings may apply to patients with other cancer diagnoses as well. Neugut noted that in previous research, symptoms of PTSD have been reported following prostate cancer and lymphoma diagnoses.