Trouble Coping Under the Knife

Breast cancer surgery patients with mental health disorders may have more hospital woes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having breast cancer surgery is tough for any woman. But recovering from surgery may be a little tougher for women who also have mental health issues.

A recent study compared the surgical complications, length of hospital stays and hospital costs in a group of women who had their breasts surgically removed because of breast cancer.

The results of the study showed that more women with mental health disorders or substance abuse disorders had longer and more expensive hospital stays and surgical complications than women without these disorders.

"Tell your surgeon about any mental health concerns before surgery."

Justin P. Fox, MD, from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, led an investigation into whether mental health issues played a role in how women fared after having surgery to remove their breasts due to cancer.

For the study, the researcher looked at 40,202 women over the age of 18 who had surgery to remove one or both breasts (mastectomy) because of invasive breast cancer between 2005 and 2008.

Overall, 5 percent of the patients had at least one of the following mental health disorders: major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress, panic, adjustment or generalized anxiety disorder and substance abuse disorder.

The researchers compared post-surgical complications, longer hospital stays and increased costs of care in patients with mental health disorders and those without.

Patients with a substance abuse disorder were more likely to have post-surgical complications compared to those without a substance abuse disorder (9 percent versus 5 percent, respectively).

Patients with a substance abuse disorder were more likely to be in the hospital for more than three days compared to those without a substance abuse disorder (26 percent versus 14 percent, respectively).

Average costs were also higher for patients with a substance abuse disorder. While costs were at $9,855 for patients with a substance abuse disorder, costs were at $9,128 for those without a substance abuse disorder.

Patients with other mental health disorders also showed increased rates of complications, hospital stays and costs.

A total of 6 percent of patients with mental health disorders had surgical complications versus 5 percent of patients without any mental health disorders.

Hospital stays longer than three days were experienced by 9 percent of patients with mental health disorders compared to 5 percent of patients without mental health disorders.

Hospital costs averaged $9,723 for patients with mental health disorders, compared to $9,108 for patients without mental health disorders.

The authors recommended healthcare professionals make greater efforts to identify and manage patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders from admission into the hospital through recover from surgery.

This study was published in March in The Breast Journal.

Funding sources were not released to the public. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 25, 2013
Last Updated:
March 27, 2013