Well-educated women hardest hit by breast cancer

October 19, 2009,

Well-educated women and those who live alone are emotionally the hardest hit by breast cancer, according to the findings of a new Australian study announced during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The MBF Foundation Health and Wellbeing after Study, undertaken by Monash University Medical School's Women's Health Program, found that older women tended to experience lower levels of overall wellbeing compared to women of similar age in the community two years after their diagnosis.

"Up until now, there has been uncertainty about exactly what the impact of being diagnosed with breast cancer is in terms of mood and wellbeing over time. In our study, we found that two years post diagnosis women with breast cancer were not more likely to be depressed but were more likely to experience a lowered sense of control over their life, and lower general health, with lessened vitality being limited to ," explains Dr Susan R Davis, Professor of Women's Health, Monash University Medical School, who was involved in the study.

"The experience of having breast cancer is a personal one and is often accompanied by very complex emotions due to the fact that it strikes at a woman's very sense of self, purpose and sexuality."

Co-chief investigator of the study, Associate Professor Robin Bell, added: "That women living alone were more likely to have a lower wellbeing is a novel and important finding and would suggest that such women may benefit by targeted provision of social support."

More educated women are likely to be the best informed about their breast cancer and treatment, and their lower wellbeing results may reflect greater anxiety over decision making and their difficulty coping with a sense loss of control over their health and wellbeing.

"We would encourage health care providers to be sensitive to the fact that more highly educated women may deal less well with psychological aspects of their disease than others," said Professor Davis.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Australia, affecting one in nine women by the age of 85 years, and is responsible for around 2,600 deaths annually. With improvements in detection and treatment of breast cancer, 87 per cent of women affected survive five years or more from the time of detection.

"At MBF Foundation we are all for women becoming advocates for their breast cancer and their health in general but, as this study has shown, it is important that providing accurate information isn't at the expense of supporting their emotional needs," commented Dr Christine Bennett, Bupa Australia Chief Medical Officer and Chair of the MBF Foundation steering committee, which has committed $300,000 to fund the study.

"As survival prospects for women with breast cancer continue to improve, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that each woman's journey and coping mechanisms are different. We know from listening to the women in the study, that it is common for breast cancer survivors to experience a range of emotions and concerns once treatment ends. Indeed, some women, report experiencing feelings of isolation and abandonment once their regular appointments with their medical team stop," added Dr Bennett.

On a positive note, the study found that women's wellbeing two years out from being treated for the disease was overall only modestly lower than for Australian in general.

Source: Research Australia (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2009
Older women tend toward thicker, more obscuring bras. The breasts are WARMER. HEAT PROMOTES CANCER!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.