October is the month that we raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection and treatment. However, Breast Cancer touches many aspects of a woman’s life, and the effects linger well after the Cancer has been detected treated and hopefully cured. A study conducted by researchers in Copenhagen and published in the online October 27th edition of Journal of Clinical Oncology demonstrated this fact well.
This study looked at nearly 2 million Danish women between 1998 and 2011 who were initially cancer-free. During the study period, they found that 45,000 of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The risk of having to check into a hospital for severe depression was 70% higher for breast cancer patients in the first year of the diagnosis as compared to the women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer. Additionally, the breast cancer patients were three times as likely to use antidepressants during the first year after their diagnosis. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the depression lingered in many breast cancer patients for as long as eight years after diagnosis.
While the study did not examine reasons behind the depression, experts suggest that fear of the cancer reoccurring may be the biggest reason behind the depression. Also, the changes that occur during cancer treatment and afterwards can affect many aspects of a person’s life including family life, work and social life.
This study highlights the importance of supporting women before, during and after treatment for breast cancer. In fact, recent guidelines adopted by the American Society for Clinical Oncology and others call for health care workers to to screen all cancer patients for depression and anxiety.