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Breast Cancer Survivors Emotional Recovery Is Rapid After Treatment

A new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that survivors of breast cancer recover quite rapidly after treatment and are not as depressed as some studies make them out to be // . The details of this study appear in the December issue of Supportive Care in Cancer.

This study tracked 94 women who underwent radiation therapy at Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. All women were diagnosed as having stage 0, I, II or III of the cancer and were on a six to seven-week course of radiation therapy. These women were surveyed about four times at different intervals to measure their depressive symptoms. For breast cancer patients’ depression was found to be high on the last day of treatment. However, this dropped by the end of two weeks after treatment and was stable even after six months. "Previous studies had never looked at breast-cancer survivors so soon after treatment, and we were surprised that most improvement happened so quickly," said Washington University psychologist, Teresa L. Deshields, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine. "There's a concept called resiliency, the notion that people can withstand a lot and come through fine. Our largest patient group by far was these resilient patients who never experienced clinically significant depressive symptoms." The study also found that 75 percent of those surveyed never experienced depressive symptoms. Only 6 percent were depressed throughout the survey period. "Often patients try to reintegrate into their usual lives. Inevitably, they find that life is different--they can't go back to where they were before treatment. They have to find a new normal," said Deshields.

Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University School of Medicine


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