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Ann Oncol. 2007 Oct;18(10):1641-5. Epub 2007 Jul 28.

Who is prone to high levels of distress after prophylactic mastectomy and/or salpingo-ovariectomy?

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Erasmus Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.



The present study aimed to assess predictors of distress after 'prophylactic mastectomy (PM) and salpingo-ovariectomy (PSO), in order to enable the early identification of patients who could benefit from psychological support.


General distress and cancer-related distress were assessed in 82 women at increased risk of hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer undergoing PM and/or PSO, before and 6 and 12 months after prophylactic surgery. Neurotic lability and coping were assessed before surgery.


Cancer-related distress and general distress at both follow-up moments were best explained by the level of cancer-related and general distress at baseline. Being a mutation carrier was predictive of increased cancer-related distress at 6-month follow-up (but not at 12 months), and of lower general distress 12 months after prophylactic surgery. Also, coping by having comforting thoughts was predictive of less cancer-related distress at 6-month follow-up.


Genetically predisposed women who are at risk of post-surgical distress can be identified using one or more of the predictors found in this study. Exploration of and/or attention to cancer-related distress and coping style before prophylactic surgery may help physicians and psychosocial workers to identify women who might benefit from additional post-surgical support.

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