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PTSD Linked to Women With Breast Cancer

Update Date: Mar 02, 2013 01:34 PM EST

Breast cancer is one of the leading diseases that afflict women. According to the American Cancer Association, roughly one in eight women, who make up 12 percent of the population, will develop breast cancer in the United States. Not only do these women have to worry about dealing with the disease, new research shows that a quarter of the new cases diagnosed this year may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well. The study published in the journal, The National Cancer Institute found that the majority of the breast cancer patients who had PTSD post-diagnosis were African American and Asian women under 50-years-old.

Lead author, Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD, of Columbia University in New York City, and his team used the 2006-2010 Breast Cancer Quality of Care Study (BQUAL). They used the data from 1,139 patients, 23 percent of who stated that they had PTSD two to three months after their breast cancer diagnoses. The research team monitored the patients and found that the percentage dropped to 16.5 after four months and then to 12.6 after six months of the initial diagnosis.

The patients were diagnosed with stage I, II, or III breast cancer and their assessments from 2006-2010 were recorded via a phone interview. The first call was at the baseline of two to three months, the second call came at four months, and the final call was at six months. The patients then had to go to three sites, the New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center and Mouth Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and Kaiser-Permanente in CA.

The researchers measured PTSD based on 15 items that assessed factors such as arousal and experienced avoidance.  They found positive correlations between PTSD and being younger than 50, being African American, and/ or being Asian. The researchers did note that economic and social statuses could have been confounding factors. This study will help women and doctors deal with breast cancer symptoms better if they were to develop PTSD.  In understanding the role of PTSD for breast cancer patients, treatment options will change for the better.

According to the American Cancer Society, over 200,000 cases of invasive breast cancer will develop in the U.S. in 2013. About 40,000 women will die from the disease. 

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