Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Physical Activity, Depression, Healthcare Reform
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - a campaign launched 25 years ago to raise awareness of breast cancer nationwide. We post below some news on the disease for those who may be interested. Becoming aware of this disease and having it diagnosed in its early stages is not enough. Many patients still die prematurely no matter how rigorously they are treated.
Partners of breast cancer patients at risk of depression
A new study reported online in the journal Cancer found women whose wives or girlfriends are diagnosed with breast cancer are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders, such as major depression, that are so severe they require hospitalization.
The study suggests that men need emotional, social, and economic support to meet their psychological needs after their partners are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Previous studies have already shown that male partners of breast cancer patients are more likely than others to develop major psychosocial problems. But the current study found the disease raised risk of severe depression in men whose female partners were diagnosed with it.
Christoffer Johansen MD, PhD, DSc (Med), of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, Denmark and colleagues analysed data from 1,162,596 men ages 30 years or older to see how frequently partners of women with breast cancer were hospitalized with disorders like major depression, bipolar disease and other serious mood altering conditions.
During 13 years of follow-up, 180 of the 20,538 men analyzed were hospitalized with a mental disorder like depression.
Compared to men whose wives or girlfriends were not diagnosed with breast cancer, men with partners diagnosed with the disease were an overwhelming 309 percent more likely to develop a mental disorder.
The higher risk of being hospitalized was found in men whose partners were diagnosed with severe breast cancer compared to men whose wives or girlfriends were not diagnosed with the disease. Men whose significant others experienced a relapse were also more likely to develop depression compared to those whose wives/girlfriends were free of cancer. When female breast cancer patients died, their partners were 3.6 times as likely to develop depression compared to those whose partners survived.
"A diagnosis of breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient but may also seriously affect the partner," said Prof. Johansen.
"We suggest that some sort of screening of the partners of cancer patients in general and of those of breast cancer patients in particular for depressive symptoms might be important for preventing this devastating consequence of cancer," Prof. Johansen added.
Breast cancer patients with physical limitations more likely to die earlier.
A new study published online in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that breast cancer patients with basic physical limitations or disabilities that disallow them from simple everyday life tasks are more likely to die;such limitiations can be either a direct cause of the disease itself or its treatment.
The study led by researchers at the University of California - San Fransisco found breast cancer survivors who reported physical limitations after breast cancer treatment had the same risk of dying from breast cancer as those without limitations; however, they were more likely to die from other conditions.
Additionally, older women as well as overweight breast cancer patients were found more likely to have functional impairments for at least 18 months after treatment.
According to a press release by the UCSF, the findings suggest that physical activity is important in improving the outcome; simple modifications in habits that allow more physical activity would greatly improve patients' health.
"Our study provides evidence of why it is important to develop interventions that improve physical function, to mitigate the adverse effects of physical limitations," said Dejana Braithwaite, PhD, first author of the study and assistant professor at UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Intervention strategies – on the part of the individual, the community and the health provider – should emphasize physically active lifestyles," Braithwaite added.
The association between physical inability and death risk was derived from an analysis of data from 2,202 women with breast cancer in California and Utah on their endurance, strength, muscular range of motion and small muscle dexterity after initial treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. The women were followed for a 11-year period and as many as 36 percent were found physically inactive.
Physical activity has been associated with a better long-term prognosis in breast cancer patients, while physical inactivity has been linked to bad outcomes.
A health observer suggested that breast cancer patients who died early may not voluntarily be physically inactive. Those who were physically inactive may have a worse condition in the first place. That is, physical inactivity may simply serve as a "biomarker" to indicate the severity of breast cancer and their overall health condition.
Healthcare reform law provides education on breast cancer prevention in young women
Breast cancer when found in young women tends to be more aggressive compared to breast cancer diagnosed in older women. Media reports say the healthcare reform law provides measures against development of breast cancer in women between ages of 15 and 44.
Under the law, the centers for Disease Control and Prevention is required to create education programs that are focused on young women and breast cancer and to encourage a healthy lifestyle that promotes prevention and early detection of the condition.
The law also provides $9 million annually between 2010 and 2014 for groups to help young women with breast cancer. Under the law, the National Institutes of health will develop new screening methods to prevent breast in young women and improve early detection, which is believed to cut risk of dying of the disease.
Breast cancer is diagnosed in 250,000 women in the United States and 10 percent of them are younger than 45 years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Editing by Rachel Stockton