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1 in 4 Breast Cancer Patients Develops PTSD

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1 in 4 Breast Cancer Patients Develops PTSD

Could cancer diagnosis spur on post-traumatic stress syndrome?

A new study has found that almost one in four breast cancer patients shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, shortly after receiving diagnosis.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can sometimes occur after experiencing, or witnessing, a life-threatening event.

Researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center interviewed over 1,100 breast cancer patients over the age of 20 and found that 23 percent of them developed PTSD symptoms during the first two to three months of diagnosis.

The results also showed that younger women were more likely than older women to have PTSD symptoms, and that Asian and black women had more than a 50 percent higher risk than white women. The study did, however, show the symptoms declined over the following three months.

1 in 4 breast cancer patients develop ptsd

1 In 4 Breast Cancer Patients Develop PTSD

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:

“This study is one of the first to evaluate the course of PTSD after a diagnosis of breast cancer.”

Neugut, who is also an oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, added:

“The ultimate outcome of this research is to find ways to improve the quality of patients’ lives.

“If we can identify potential risk factors for PTSD, when women are diagnosed with breast cancer, we could provide early prevention and intervention to minimize PTSD symptoms. This approach might also have an indirect impact on the observed racial disparity in breast cancer survival.”

The researchers think the study findings may also apply to patients with other types of cancer. They noted that PTSD symptoms have been reported in many patients diagnosed with prostate cancer and lymphoma.
The findings were released online Feb. 28, and will be published in the upcoming print issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


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  1. Robert Preidt: 1 in 4 Breast Cancer Diagnoses May Spur PTSD. WebMD, 03/01/2013.

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