Modern medical advances have made it possible for most women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer to have a low risk for cancer recurrence. But despite an optimistic future, many of these women report that they worry that their cancer will come back.
While some worry about cancer recurrence is perfectly understandable, for some women these worries can be so strong that they have an impact on what treatments women choose, how often they seek care, and their quality of life as cancer survivors.
A University of Michigan study found women with the least anxiety about recurrence are those who have a greater ease in understanding the clinical information presented to them, those who experienced fewer symptoms and who received more coordinated care. However, for Latina women who primarily speak Spanish, a reason to worry less is being lost in translation.
Less acculturated Latina breast cancer patients were particularly vulnerable to high levels of worry, while African Americans patients reported significantly less worry than other races. Other factors associated with high levels of anxiety included undergoing radiation treatment, being employed, experiencing more pain and fatigue and being younger, according to the study, published early online in the medical journal Cancer.
Nancy Janz, PhD, University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, led the study that investigated whether worry about recurrence was related to race and ethnicity, acculturation—the process by which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs and behaviors of another group—clinical and treatment factors, and how women viewed their experience in the health care system while being treated for breast cancer.
For this study, 2,290 women with non-metastatic breast cancer who were diagnosed from June 2005 to February 2007 and reported to Detroit or Los Angeles cancer registries were studied. A patient's level of worry was determined by assessing her concern about cancer returning to the same breast, the other breast, and spreading to other parts of the body.