Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Pain and Depression in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer

By: Kelly M. Hennessey, PhD
Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Many patients experience different types of pain as a result of breast cancer treatment. As survival rates for breast cancer have improved, patients’ psychological well-being has become an increasingly important issue. Reetta Sipilä, PhD, of the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues studied the effects of anger, depression, anxiety, and pain in nearly 1,000 women treated for breast cancer.

They found that close to 20% of patients treated for breast cancer suffered from anxiety and depression symptoms that persisted throughout the 3-year postoperative follow-up. Furthermore, those with depressive symptoms and anxiety experienced greater pain intensity and pain-related disability. These findings were described in Psycho-Oncology.

The study included women between the ages of 18 and 75 with histologically proven, newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer (T1–4N0-3M0). Preoperative data were collected from 952 patients, and 3-year follow-up data were assembled from 709 patients. To assess anger regulation, patients completed the Anger Expression Inventory before surgery and 6 months after surgery. The Beck Depression Inventory was used to measure depressive symptoms, and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was used to assess state anxiety; patients completed both surveys preoperatively and postoperatively at 1 month and at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months. The Numerical Rating Scale (from 0–10) was used to record pain intensity for three separate regions: breast, axilla, and upper arm. Results were recorded preoperatively, postoperatively on days 1 to 7, and at 12 and 36 months after surgery.

“Our results suggest that pain intensity and anger inhibition are closely associated with ongoing negative mood and that anxiety has a strong role in pain-related disability,” the author stated. Their findings underscored the importance of psychological monitoring of this patient population.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at

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