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J Clin Epidemiol. 1989;42(8):765-71.

Psychological distress after initial treatment for breast cancer: a comparison of partial and total mastectomy.

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  • 1Départment de Médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.


This study of the relation between type of mastectomy and psychological distress was based on all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with localized or regional disease who were surgically treated in seven Quebec City hospitals in 1984. Among 235 eligible patients, 227 (96%) participated in a home interview 3 months after diagnosis and 205 of these women gave a second interview approximately 15 months later. The Psychiatric Symptom Index (PSI) was used to measure the severity of symptoms of psychological distress. At 3 months, 38.8% of partial mastectomy patients had high PSI scores compared to 25.8% of women treated by total mastectomy (OR = 1.8, p = 0.044). Fifteen months later, percentages with high scores were identical, 35.1%, in the two treatment groups. Age appeared to modify the surgery-distress relation. These results suggest that partial mastectomy does not protect against psychological distress after breast cancer. Moreover, they highlight the importance of adequate preparation and support for all breast cancer patients, regardless of type of initial surgery.

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