Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Common After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occur in nearly one-quarter of patients who have been diagnosed with localized breast cancer. These results were recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

One area of recent focus and attention among patients diagnosed with cancer is that of emotional and mental health. Patients with cancer, regardless of what type or stage of cancer, are faced with an array of emotions which varies considerably with each individual and their circumstances. With increased understanding of these emotions, early intervention may play a key role in helping patients to better cope with their diagnosis and ultimately improve their quality of life.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center conducted a clinical study to evaluate potential symptoms related to PTSD among women diagnosed with localized breast cancer (cancer that has not spread to distant sites in the body). This study included 1,139 participants from 3 sites in the United States who had been diagnosed with stages I-III breast cancer. Participants had 3 phone interviews at specified times for 6 months following their diagnosis.

The first interview was scheduled between 2-3 months following diagnosis, the second interview was from their first clinical follow-up at 4 months after diagnosis, and the third interview was at their second clinical follow-up at 6 months after diagnosis.

Nearly one-quarter of participants (23%) “reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD” at their first interview.
16.5% of participants reported these symptoms at their second interview.
12.6% of participants reported these symptoms at their third interview.
Asians and African-Americans reported higher rates of PTSD symptoms than their Caucasian counterparts.
Younger age was also associated with a higher rate of PTSD symptoms.
The researchers concluded that “Early identification of PTSD may present an opportunity to provide interventions to manage symptoms.”

Reference: Vin-Raviv N, Hillyer G, Hershman D, et al. Racian Disparities in Posttraumatic Stress After Diagnosis of Localized Breast Cancer: The BQUAL Study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt024