New study find one quarter of women newly diagnosed have associated symptoms
Researchers led by Dr. Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD, Myron M. Studner Professor of Cancer Research, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York City, examined changes in PTSD symptoms in the first 6 months after diagnosis and assesses racial/ethnic differences in PTSD symptomatology over time.
For this study 1,139 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, Stages I to III, were recruited from three sites in the United States; New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City; the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; and Kaiser-Permanente in Northern California, who notes this is the first study to evaluate the course of PTSD after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Three telephone interviews were conducted between 2006 and 2010; two or three months after diagnosis, four months after diagnosis and six months after diagnosis.
Researchers measured traumatic stress during each interview using the Impact Event Scale (short set of 15 questions that can measure the amount of distress that you associate with a specific event), with questions include if patient experienced avoidance, arousal and relieving the stress associated with the diagnosis. Researchers also recorded sociodemograhics, tumor, and treatment factors.
Among the participants 23% reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD at baseline, 16.5% at first follow-up, and 12.6% at the second follow-up, 12.1% persistent PTSD was reported by the second follow-up interview and 6.6% developed PTSD at the first-follow up interview.
Younger women were more likely to have PTSD symptoms in comparison to older women and Asian and African American women had a 50% higher risk compared to Caucasian women.,
The researchers write in their conclusion “Nearly one-quarter of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reported symptoms consistent with PTSD shortly after diagnosis, with increased risk among black and Asian women. Early identification of PTSD may present an opportunity to provide interventions to manage symptoms.”
"The ultimate outcome of this research is to find ways to improve the quality of patients' lives," says Dr. Neugt.
In closing Dr. Neugt explains "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.”
Positive lymph node status at baseline and at first follow-up interview increased symptoms of PTSD. Higher PTSD had been reported in patients with Stage III and positive HER2 status (or Her-2/neu or erb-b2—is one of more than 100,000 genes found in the nucleus of all human cells).
The research team notes that this study could apply to other forms of cancer, noting that PTSD symptoms have been reported in patients diagnosed with prostate and lymphoma.
This study appears on in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
More information on PTSD and cancer can be found online at the National Cancer Institute.