Breast Cancer and Mental Health

Our Achievements

Supporting Breast Cancer Survivors through

Training Program to improve their Mental Health and Awareness about Breast Cancer

Why this research study was needed

Breast cancer is a life-long disease and is the most common cancer across the world. There are many research studies that show how cancer care has improved over the years and how it allows patients to live longer. However, breast cancer is still the top cause of cancer–related deaths in low income countries. There are several risk factors that can affect a person with breast cancer such as mental health problems that persist even after completion of treatment. Depression and anxiety are common in breast cancer survivors. This coexistence of these mental health problems with breast cancer makes it a Multiple Long-Term Condition (MLTC) (presence of two or more diseases). These MLTCs lead to:

  • Declining
  • Poor quality of life of these individuals and their families.
  • Increased healthcare costs.
  • Increased death rate.

What we did

Therefore, we conducted a research study of psychosocial training for breast cancer survivors who completed their cancer treatment and are currently experiencing depression and or anxiety (n=354) in Pakistan. These breast cancer survivors were approached and recruited from different healthcare facilities in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Hyderabad. Trained researchers provided information about the study to all the breast cancer survivors in the healthcare facilities. Those who met the study’s criteria were provided with an information leaflet that included details of the steps involved in the study. The research team contacted them again after two days and asked for their consent to participate in the research study. Those who provided consent met the research team again and were assessed for their symptoms of depression, anxiety, cancer-related fatigue, their quality of life, and the level of disturbing thoughts and self-esteem.

After completion of this first assessment session, the research team assigned a unique identification number to each of the participants. These identification numbers were then sent to another research office where a trained professional (who is not involved in this study) assigned these participants to either of the two groups. One group of participants received the study’s training program for 4 months along with their routine care and this group was called the Training Group. The other group did not receive training and continued with their routine care. The random assignment of the groups was done by computer.

Those breast cancer survivors who received training met a researcher for 4 months and received 12 training sessions at home. During this training program, the researcher provided them with information about breast cancer, symptoms of depression and anxiety, relaxation exercises, guidance on how to take care of themselves, discussion on improving interpersonal relationships and steps to avoid the relapse of breast cancer etc.

All the research participants, regardless of their group, were approached by the research team again, for another assessment session at 4th month after their first assessment. The assessment was repeated in the 6th month.

Our findings

At the end of the study, the research team compared the scores of two groups and found that those who received training had less scores on depression and anxiety on both assessment points (4 and 6-month). They also reported less cancer-related fatigue, more improvement in quality of life and self-esteem compared to those who only received routine care. These are important findings not only for the participants and researchers but also for other stakeholders such as doctors, nurses, members of the Department of Health etc.

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