Volume 12 Supplement 1
Depression in older breast cancer survivors
© Frazzetto et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
Published: 15 November 2012
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women .The 5-year survival rate for this tumour is nowadays 85%, and the 61% of these women are still alive at 15 years. When depression symptoms are present as a consequence of breast cancer treatments, they may interfere negatively with patients’ quality of life. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of breast cancer treatment on the quality of life and the impact of depression on the health-related life.
We enrolled 173 women aged 65-75 years with early stage breast cancer diagnosed over the last 10 years, initially recruited to participate in a study examining heath-related quality of life in the first 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis. Participants were divided into four groups: 1) 46 breast cancer survivors (aged 65-70); 2) 62 women diagnosed with breast cancer (aged 65-69); 3) 32 women with recurrent breast cancer after 10 years (aged 66-75); 4) 30 women in good health status (aged 60-70). The Geriatric Depression Scale was used as a routine part of a comprehensive geriatric assessment. Collection of data for the application of instruments, such as sociodemographic variables (age, educational level, social state) and clinical date (stage and time of the disease and treatment), was carried out by trained researcher assistants.
Our results demonstrated the correlation between depression and previous cancer experiences. In fact, in patients with cancer experience, the grade of depression was significantly higher compared to healthy subjects. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the patients with recurrent breast cancer were severely depressed compared to other groups.
A high percentage of participants were identified as having emotional and/or well being problems. Further investigations on the cause of depression problems cancer-related are needed.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women . The mean age of all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 61 years, and women aged 75-79 years have the highest incidence of the disease . Most encouraging fact is represented by the topic that women with a history of breast cancer are the largest group of female cancer survivors. In fact, the 5-year survival rate is nowadays 85% and 61% of these women are still alive at 15 years. Approximately 4.4 million women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 5 year currently are alive, making breast cancer the single most prevalent cancer in the world . The term of “breast cancer survivors” is here used to refer to women with a history of breast cancer and to emphasize the issues concerning with quality of life in older women disease-free breast cancer. So, the main issue is the correct understanding of the variables that influence quality of life (QOL) among long-term survivors of breast cancer. Effective treatments for breast cancer can produce a life expectancy of 10 or more years, increasing concern for patients’ QOL [4–7]. When depression symptoms are present as a consequence of breast cancer treatments, they may interfere negatively with patients’ QOL, above all on QOL of long-term survivors. In addition, when a woman develops breast cancer all family members may develop some sort of illness . It is recognized that breast cancer diagnosis and its treatment may have a significant practical and emotional impact on the entire family, but particularly on partners . The aim of this study was to examine the effects of breast cancer treatment on the quality of life and the impact of depression on the health-related life.
Demographic characteristics of subjects included in the study.
Breast Cancer Survivors
Recurrent breast cancer
69.5 ± 4.7
Results and discussion
Percentage of subjects in each group according to the GDS score.
Breast Cancer survivors
Recurrent breast cancer
A high percentage of participants were identified as having emotional and/or well being problems. Moreover the participants had a physical activities level that was insufficient to yield expected benefits. The focus of further researches should be the investigation of the cause of depression problems cancer-related and the need for a better understanding of why cancer survivors decrease their level of physical activities following a cancer diagnosis. Increasing physical activities to a level that is sufficient for cancer survivors to receive known benefits (for example, reduced depression, increased functional well being) should be the goal of any intervention.
List of abbrevations used
Quality of Life
Geriatric Depression Scale
MM and GM were supported by the International PhD programme in Neuropharmacology, University of Catania
This article has been published as part of BMC Surgery Volume 12 Supplement 1, 2012: Selected articles from the XXV National Congress of the Italian Society of Geriatric Surgery. The full contents of the supplement are available online at http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcsurg/supplements/12/S1.
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