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Aging, Breast cancer, Fatigue, Mood state, Quality of life, Symptom distress



  1. Cimprich, Bernadine Ph.D., R.N.


Although the initial phase of illness is recognized as important in the overall process of adjustment after a diagnosis of breast cancer, little is known about pretreatment patterns of symptom distress. Seventy-four women ages 25 to 79 years and newly diagnosed with breast cancer were studied to determine physical, cognitive, and affective distress in the pretreatment period. Severity of distress was assessed about 11 days before primary surgery using the Symptom Distress Scale (SDS), Attentional Function Index (AFI), and Profile of Mood States (POMS). Higher levels of distress (SDS) were related to a triad of symptoms, insomnia, fatigue, and loss of concentration. Also, lowered effectiveness in cognitive function (AFI) and significant disturbances in mood state (POMS) were observed. Overall, a greater number of symptoms was associated with lowered cognitive function (r = -0.47; p < 0.01) and greater mood disturbance (r = 0.65; p < 0.01). Younger women younger than 55 years of age (n = 25) reported significantly (p = 0.02) greater overall symptom distress (SDS) than older women (n = 49). Interestingly, severity of distress did not differ in groups anticipating breast-conserving surgery (n = 35) instead of mastectomy (n = 39). The findings showed a discernible pattern of symptom distress before any treatment in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, indicating a need for early intervention to promote the initial process of adjustment.