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Breast Cancer Patients Suffer From Psychological Problems

A new study published by CANCER (a peer-reviewed journal of American Cancer Society) reveals that more than 47% of the breast cancer patients met clinically significant screening// criteria for emotional distress or a psychiatric disorder, including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study also reveals that virtually all of the women admitted have been experiencing some level of emotional distress.

Studies have shown that significant emotional distress, including mood disorders and related functional impairments, afflict up to one-third of breast cancer survivors for up to 20 years after treatment. However, little was previously known about the baseline psychological status of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.

To help characterize pre-treatment psychological status, Mark T. Hegel, Ph.D. of the Department of Psychiatry and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center of Dartmouth Medical School and colleagues conducted psychiatric and functional screening of 236 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Their findings indicate that almost one in two women met clinically significant criteria for emotional distress or a psychiatric disorder. The most common problem was moderate to severe emotional distress (41 percent). The most commonly reported source of distress was related to the cancer diagnosis (100 percent), followed by uncertainty about treatment (96 percent) and concern about physical problems (81 percent). Twenty-one percent of women met criteria for psychiatric disorders, including major depression (11 percent) and PTSD (10 percent). These women also demonstrated significant declines in daily functioning that were due to the emotional disorders. Treatment for their cancer had not yet begun.

Almost two-thirds of the women with depression had moderate to severe levels of depression, for which treatment is strongly recommended. More than half of the women with depression were already taking psychotro
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