Surviving Breast Cancer can be Depressing

Breast cancer survivors who are single and have kids at home are most vulnerable

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

(RxWiki News) Let's face it - being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer is no picnic. It can be depressing. And survivors who suffer from depression often have more complicated recoveries.  Researchers now know who is most vulnerable.

Two recently published studies have uncovered what factors can lead to depression in breast cancer survivors, and how the condition impacts recovery. Knowing this information can help healthcare providers identify and provide additional support for these women.

"If you're depressed, get help - please."

University of Missouri researcher, Ann Bettencourt, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, and colleagues, surveyed 225 breast cancer patients who were receiving radiation treatment. Participants completed four surveys over a period of 13 months to assess both physical health and depressive symptoms.

Researchers found that women who were most likely to be depressed tended to be:

  • Single
  • Mothers with children at home
  • Younger - under the age of 40 
  • Less affluent; women with higher incomes had lower depressive symptoms after treatment was complete.

Bettencourt says that zeroing in on these factors and identifying survivors who are depressed can help improve outcomes.

In a separate study, Bettencourt found that depressed women had worse attitudes toward treatment and were less likely to adhere to medication regimens.

As a result, a patient's prognosis and ultimate outcome can be negatively impacted.

Both studies are published in the Psychology and Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 4, 2011
Last Updated:
November 5, 2011