Predictors of psychological distress after diagnosis in breast cancer patients and patients with benign breast problems

Noriko Ando, Yumi Iwamitsu, Masaru Kuranami, Shigemi Okazaki, Yuki Nakatani, Kenji Yamamoto, Masahiko Watanabe, Hitoshi Miyaoka
Psychosomatics 2011, 52 (1): 56-64

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine how age and psychological characteristics assessed prior to diagnosis could predict psychological distress in outpatients immediately after disclosure of their diagnosis.

METHODS: This is a longitudinal and prospective study, and participants were breast cancer patients and patients with benign breast problems (BBP). Patients were asked to complete questionnaires to determine levels of the following: trait anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), negative emotional suppression (Courtauld Emotional Control Scale), life stress events (Life Experiences Survey), and psychological distress (Profile of Mood Status) prior to diagnosis. They were asked to complete a questionnaire measuring psychological distress after being told their diagnosis. We analyzed a total of 38 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 95 women diagnosed with a BBP.

RESULTS: A two-way analysis of variance (prior to, after diagnosis × cancer, benign) showed that psychological distress after diagnosis among breast cancer patients was significantly higher than in patients with a BBP. The multiple regression model accounted for a significant amount of variance in the breast cancer group (model adjusted R(2) = 0.545, p < 0.001), and only trait anxiety was statistically significant (β = 0.778, p < 0.001). In the BBP group, the multiple regression analysis yielded a significant result (model adjusted R(2) = 0.462, p < 0.001), with trait anxiety and negative life changes as statistically significant factors (β = 0.449 and 0.324 respectively; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: In both groups, trait anxiety assessed prior to diagnosis was the significant predictor of psychological distress after diagnosis, and might have prospects as a screening method for psychologically vulnerable women.


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