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Identification and prediction of distress trajectories in the first year after a breast cancer diagnosis.

journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2010 by Inge Henselmans, Vicki Helgeson, Howard Seltman, Jakob de Vries, Robbert Sanderman, Adelita V Ranchor

OBJECTIVE: In this article, we aim to (a) identify distinct trajectories of psychological distress in the first year after a breast cancer diagnosis in women treated with adjuvant therapy and (b) explore possible predictors of these trajectories, that is, demographic, medical, and personal characteristics.

METHOD: The 171 patients were assessed after diagnosis, after surgery, after adjuvant treatment, in the reentry phase, and in the (short-term) survivorship phase (2 and 6 months after the end of treatment, respectively).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Psychological distress was assessed with the 12-item General Health Questionnaire.

RESULTS: There were four trajectories of distress: a group that experienced no distress (36.3%), a group that experienced distress only in the active treatment phase (33.3%), a group that experienced distress in the reentry and survivorship phase (15.2%), and a group that experienced chronic distress (15.2%). Personality and physical complaints resulting from adjuvant treatment could distinguish the distress trajectories. Mastery was the only unique predictor.

CONCLUSION: Most patients were not distressed in response to breast cancer or only temporarily so. Yet, a minority of patients became or remained distressed after the end of treatment.