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 Breast Cancer 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 older women," 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 women in general.
Women who are struggling with their emotions following breast cancer treatment may benefit from sharing their feelings with those close to them and discussing their concerns with a health professional or breast cancer support group. Some excellent resources can also be found on the following websites: The National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Centre (www.nbocc.org.au) , Breast Cancer Network Australia (www.bcna.org.au) , National Breast Cancer Foundation (www.nbcf.org.au) and Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.org.au).

Notes to editors

About the MBF Foundation

The MBF Foundation helps build a healthier Australian community through its support of important health research, health education and other healthy living programs. Established as a charitable foundation by MBF Australia in 2005, the MBF Foundation is currently partnering in 40 initiatives nationally, with a combined investment of over $9 million, across its key focus areas: promoting wellness and preventing obesity; healthy ageing; and keeping healthcare affordable. www.mbf.com.au/foundation

About the MBF Foundation study

The MBF Foundation Health and Wellbeing after Breast Cancer Study, undertaken by Monash University Medical School's Women's Health Program, is following 1,700 breast cancer survivors to determine the physical, psychosocial and socio-economic issues influencing the quality of life of women post breast cancer diagnosis. For more information visit http://womenshealth.med.monash.edu.au

Media information

For further media information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Christine Bennett, Professor Susan R Davis, and/or a breast cancer survivor, please contact:

Rachel McConaghy, Tel: (0421) 762 140, Email: rmcconaghy@reputationmatters.net.au

Research Australia

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.