Nearly one in four breast cancer patients has symptoms of post-traumatic
stress disorder shortly after they receive their cancer diagnosis, and the risk
is highest in black and Asian patients, a new study reveals.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can
occur when a person has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event.
Researchers interviewed more than 1 100 breast cancer patients over the age
of 20 and found that 23% of them had PTSD symptoms during the first two
to three months after diagnosis. However, those symptoms declined over the next
Younger women were more likely than older women to have PTSD symptoms, and
Asian and black women had a more than 50% higher risk than white women,
according to the researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
"This study is one of the first to evaluate the course of PTSD after a
diagnosis of breast cancer," lead author Dr Alfred Neugut, a professor of cancer
research and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University's
College of Physicians and Surgeons and Mailman School of Public Health, said in
a Columbia University Medical Center news release.
"The ultimate outcome of this research is to find ways to improve the quality
of patients' lives," said Neugut, who is also an oncologist at New
"If we can identify potential risk factors for PTSD, when women are diagnosed
with breast cancer, we could provide early prevention and intervention to
minimise PTSD symptoms. This approach might also have an indirect impact on the
observed racial disparity in breast cancer survival," he explained.
The study findings may also apply to patients with other types of cancer, the
researchers said. They noted that PTSD symptoms have been reported in patients
diagnosed with prostate cancer and lymphoma.
Breastcancer.org has more about breast
cancer and PTSD.