Emotional Toll of Breast Cancer
This is an interesting study from Australia that suggests that women who live alone and/or are more highly educated may experience the highest emotional distress from breast cancer. I can't say that my own clinical experience supports this observation, but I find it interesting. Would be curious for your comments.
Emotional Toll of Breast Cancer on Well-Educated Women and Those Who Live Alone
Well-educated women and those who live alone are emotionally the hardest hit by breast cancer, according to the findings of a new Australian study.
The MBF Foundation Health and Wellbeing after Breast Cancer Study, undertaken by Monash University Medical School's Women's Health Program in Australia, found that older women tended to experience lower levels of overall wellbeing compared to women of similar age in the community two years after their diagnosis.
"Up until now, there has been uncertainty about exactly what the impact of being diagnosed with breast cancer is in terms of mood and wellbeing over time. In our study, we found that two years post diagnosis women with breast cancer were not more likely to be depressed but were more likely to experience a lowered sense of control over their life, and lower general health, with lessened vitality being limited to older women," explains Dr. Susan R Davis, Professor of Women's Health, Monash University Medical School, who was involved in the study.
"The experience of having breast cancer is a personal one and is often accompanied by very complex emotions due to the fact that it strikes at a woman's very sense of self, purpose and sexuality." Co-chief investigator of the study, Associate Professor Robin Bell, added: "That women living alone were more likely to have a lower wellbeing is a novel and important finding and would suggest that such women may benefit by targeted provision of social support."
More educated women are likely to be the best informed about their breast cancer and treatment, and their lower wellbeing results may reflect greater anxiety over decision making and their difficulty coping with a sense loss of control< over their health and wellbeing.
"We would encourage health care providers to be sensitive to the fact that more highly educated women may deal less well with psychological aspects of their disease than others," said Davis. "As survival prospects for women with breast cancer continue to improve, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that each woman's journey and coping mechanisms are different. We know from listening to the women in the study, that it is common for breast cancer survivors to experience a range of emotions and concerns once treatment ends. Indeed, some women, report experiencing feelings of isolation and abandonment once their regular appointments with their medical team stop," added Dr. Christine Bennett, Bupa Australia Chief Medical Officer and Chair of the MBF Foundation steering committee.
On a positive note, the study found that women's wellbeing two years out from being treated for the disease was overall only modestly lower than for Australian women in general.
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