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Eur J Cancer. 2007 Jan;43(1):95-103. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

The course of distress in women at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer due to an (identified) genetic susceptibility who opt for prophylactic mastectomy and/or salpingo-oophorectomy.

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Erasmus MC, P.O. Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


The levels and course of psychological distress before and after prophylactic mastectomy (PM) and/or prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy (PSO) were studied in a group of 78 women. General distress was measured through the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS), cancer-related distress using the impact of events scale (IES). Measurement moments were baseline (2-4 weeks prior to prophylactic surgery), and 6 and 12 months post-surgery. After PM, anxiety and cancer-related distress were significantly reduced, whereas no significant changes in distress scores were observed after PSO. At one year after prophylactic surgery, a substantial amount of women remained at clinically relevant increased levels of cancer-related distress and anxiety. We conclude that most women can undergo PM and/or PSO without developing major emotional distress. More research is needed to further define the characteristics of the women who continue to have clinically relevant increased scores after surgery, in order to offer them additional counselling.

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