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      Adjusting to life after treatment: distress and quality of life following treatment for breast cancer

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          Clinical and anecdotal findings suggest that the completion of cancer treatment may be marked by heightened distress and disrupted adjustment. The present study examined psychological adjustment during the 3 months following treatment among 89 women with stages 0–III breast cancer. Participants completed measures of depression, cancer-related anxiety, cancer concerns, and quality of life at three time points: during treatment, 3 weeks following the end of treatment, and 3 months post-treatment. Post-treatment scores were suggestive of good psychological adjustment among the majority of women. Moreover, distress did not increase following treatment; longitudinal analyses showed no significant changes in depression or recurrence worry, while intrusive thoughts decreased, and quality of life improved. Younger age predicted greater distress across measures. A history of depression or anxiety predicted greater depressive symptomatology, while more extensive treatment predicted greater cancer-related anxiety. Despite the lack of distress endorsed on general depression and anxiety indices, participants reported moderate distress associated with cancer-related concerns, including physical problems, fear of cancer recurrence, and resuming normal life. In sum, while breast cancer survivors demonstrate good adjustment on general distress indices following treatment, some women are at risk for sustained distress. Moreover, significant cancer-related concerns are prevalent and may be important intervention targets.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Clinical, field, and experimental studies of response to potentially stressful life events give concordant findings: there is a general human tendency to undergo episodes of intrusive thinking and periods of avoidance. A scale of current subjective distress, related to a specific event, was based on a list of items composed of commonly reported experiences of intrusion and avoidance. Responses of 66 persons admitted to an outpatient clinic for the treatment of stress response syndromes indicated that the scale had a useful degree of significance and homogeneity. Empirical clusters supported the concept of subscores for intrusions and avoidance responses.
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            Validation and utility of a self-report version of PRIME-MD: the PHQ primary care study. Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders. Patient Health Questionnaire.

            The Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD) was developed as a screening instrument but its administration time has limited its clinical usefulness. To determine if the self-administered PRIME-MD Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) has validity and utility for diagnosing mental disorders in primary care comparable to the original clinician-administered PRIME-MD. Criterion standard study undertaken between May 1997 and November 1998. Eight primary care clinics in the United States. Of a total of 3000 adult patients (selected by site-specific methods to avoid sampling bias) assessed by 62 primary care physicians (21 general internal medicine, 41 family practice), 585 patients had an interview with a mental health professional within 48 hours of completing the PHQ. Patient Health Questionnaire diagnoses compared with independent diagnoses made by mental health professionals; functional status measures; disability days; health care use; and treatment/referral decisions. A total of 825 (28%) of the 3000 individuals and 170 (29%) of the 585 had a PHQ diagnosis. There was good agreement between PHQ diagnoses and those of independent mental health professionals (for the diagnosis of any 1 or more PHQ disorder, kappa = 0.65; overall accuracy, 85%; sensitivity, 75%; specificity, 90%), similar to the original PRIME-MD. Patients with PHQ diagnoses had more functional impairment, disability days, and health care use than did patients without PHQ diagnoses (for all group main effects, P<.001). The average time required of the physician to review the PHQ was far less than to administer the original PRIME-MD (<3 minutes for 85% vs 16% of the cases). Although 80% of the physicians reported that routine use of the PHQ would be useful, new management actions were initiated or planned for only 117 (32%) of the 363 patients with 1 or more PHQ diagnoses not previously recognized. Our study suggests that the PHQ has diagnostic validity comparable to the original clinician-administered PRIME-MD, and is more efficient to use.
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              Life after breast cancer: understanding women's health-related quality of life and sexual functioning.

              To describe the health-related quality of life (HRQL), partner relationships, sexual functioning, and body image concerns of breast cancer survivors (BCS) in relation to age, menopausal status, and type of cancer treatment. A cross-sectional sample of BCS in two large metropolitan areas was invited to participate in a survey study that included the following standardized measures: the RAND 36-Item Health Survey; the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D); the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS); the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT) Symptom Checklist; the Watts Sexual Functioning Questionnaire (WSFQ); and subscales from the Cancer Rehabilitation Evaluation System (CARES). Eight hundred sixty-four BCS completed the survey. RAND Health Survey scores were as good or better than those of healthy, age-matched women, and the frequency of depression was similar to general population samples. Marital/partner adjustment was similar to normal healthy samples, and sexual functioning mirrored that of healthy, age-matched postmenopausal women. However, these BCS reported higher rates of physical symptoms (eg, joint pains, headaches, and hot flashes) than healthy women. Sexual dysfunction occurred more frequently in women who had received chemotherapy (all ages), and in younger women who were no longer menstruating. In women > or = 50 years, tamoxifen therapy was unrelated to sexual functioning. BCS report more frequent physical and menopausal symptoms than healthy women, yet report HRQL and sexual functioning comparable to that of healthy, age-matched women. Nevertheless, some survivors still experience poorer functioning, and clinicians should inquire about common symptoms to provide symptomatic management or counseling for these women.

                Author and article information

                [1]Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI, USA
                [2]Departments of Psychology, Urology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Iowa Iowa City, IA, USA
                [3]Department of Psychology, University of Iowa Iowa City, IA, USA
                [4]Aultman Hospital Canton, OH, USA
                [5]Trinity Medical Center Rock Island, IL, USA
                [6]Iowa City Cancer Treatment Center Iowa City, IA, USA
                [7]Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa Iowa City, IA, USA
                Author notes
                [*]Author for correspondence:
                Br J Cancer
                British Journal of Cancer
                Nature Publishing Group
                13 November 2007
                11 December 2007
                17 December 2007
                : 97
                : 12
                : 1625-1631
                Copyright 2007, Cancer Research UK
                Clinical Studies

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                anxiety, quality of life, depression, cancer survivorship, breast cancer


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