A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a life-altering experience, and it's not uncommon for those affected to experience a range of emotions, from depression and anxiety to fear and loneliness. In addition to the emotional toll, there are also physical symptoms that can arise from the diagnosis and treatment
of breast cancer. These can include changes in energy, sleep, mood, and cognition, as well as fatigue, insomnia, depression, and cognitive disorders. It's important to recognize that these symptoms are common and that they can have a significant impact on a person's life.
One day you may be living your life as usual, and the next you may be dealing with tests and CT scans while trying to make sense of complex medical information. The distress associated with this diagnosis can continue even after the initial shock has passed. As women begin their treatment process, they may face new problems such as changes in their personal relationships or feeling tired all the time. They may also be concerned about their symptoms, treatment, and mortality, or experience discrimination from employers or insurance companies.
Unfortunately, these behavioral side effects are often not reported or treated appropriately. Longitudinal studies focusing on sleep in
patients with breast cancerare lacking, and there is little information on the course and duration of these problems during and after treatment. Changes in biological systems may play a more secondary role among women with early-stage breast cancer compared to those with an advanced disease or other patient populations. Research on behavioral comorbidities in patients with cancer has mainly focused on documenting the prevalence of these symptoms and evaluating correlations and possible treatments.
The prevalence of depression among women with breast cancer ranges from 1.5% to 50%, depending on the sample size and definition of depression used. This can include the long-term side effects of chemotherapy, radiation fibrosis, pain caused by reconstruction, and more. Women with breast cancer may also start to eat poorly, eating fewer meals and choosing foods with lower nutritional value. Longitudinal studies have provided more evidence of the effects of chemotherapy on cognitive functioning.
Hearing the words “You have metastatic breast cancer and will need ongoing treatment” can be traumatic. If patients report problems in a particular domain, clinicians should evaluate the potential medical causes of these symptoms. Studies have demonstrated a positive association between markers of inflammation and symptoms of fatigue in patients with breast cancer receiving radiation treatment or chemotherapy.It's important for those affected by breast cancer to understand that emotional symptoms are common and that there is help available if needed. It's also important to recognize that these symptoms can have a significant impact on a person's life and should not be ignored or overlooked.