According to the American Cancer Society, 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually and nearly 40,000 women will not survive their battle with cancer. Depressed patients are less likely to adhere to medication regimens, potentially complicating the progress of their treatment.
Dr. Ann Bettencourt, professor of psychological sciences at MU, studied who is most likely to experience distress following breast cancer diagnosis. She found evidence that single women and women with children in the home were more likely to be depressed during the year following treatment.
“Many women receive strong support following their initial diagnoses of and treatment for cancer, but then the social support can wane,” Bettencourt said. “Our findings suggest that both single women and mothers with children in the home may need additional support across the entire year following breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Researchers also found a link between depression levels, income and age. Women with different incomes tend to have similar levels of elevated depression during treatment, but those symptoms decrease among women with higher incomes in the year following treatment.
Investigators also discovered younger breast cancer survivors experience more depression during treatment than older patients, but report levels similar to those of older women after treatment is complete.
Bettencourt says identifying risk factors for depression among breast cancer patients is an important part of a woman’s prognosis.
Bettencourt has studied this issue in a separate study, in which she links depression with both intentions to adhere to treatment plans and lack of adherence to medication regimens.
The research shows that more depressed breast cancer survivors have less favorable attitudes toward and perceptions of treatment regimens and thus are less likely to adhere to them.
“Depression can interfere with patients’ willingness to adhere to medication regimens,” Bettencourt said. “Deviating from the prescribed course of treatment may complicate patient outcomes and threaten prognosis.”
Source: University of Missouri