Identification and Prediction of Distress Trajectories in the First Year After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

  • Henselmans I
  • Helgeson V
  • Seltman H
 et al. 
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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.

Author-supplied keywords

  • breast cancer
  • personal control
  • psychological adjustment
  • psychological distress
  • trajectories

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  • Inge Henselmans

  • Vicki S. Helgeson

  • Howard Seltman

  • Jakob de Vries

  • Robbert Sanderman

  • Adelita V. Ranchor

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