Objective To examine the prevalence of, and risk factors for, depression and anxiety in women with early breast cancer in the five years after diagnosis.
Design Observational cohort study.
Setting NHS breast clinic, London.
Participants 222 women with early breast cancer: 170 (77%) provided complete interview data up to either five years after diagnosis or recurrence.
Main outcome measures Prevalence of clinically important depression and anxiety (structured psychiatric interview with standardised diagnostic criteria) and clinical and patient risk factors, including stressful life experiences (Bedford College life events and difficulties schedule).
Results Nearly 50% of the women with early breast cancer had depression, anxiety, or both in the year after diagnosis, 25% in the second, third, and fourth years, and 15% in the fifth year. Point prevalence was 33% at diagnosis, falling to 15% after one year. 45% of those with recurrence experienced depression, anxiety, or both within three months of the diagnosis. Previous psychological treatment predicted depression, anxiety, or both in the period around diagnosis (one month before diagnosis to four months after diagnosis). Longer term depression and anxiety, were associated with previous psychological treatment, lack of an intimate confiding relationship, younger age, and severely stressful non-cancer life experiences. Clinical factors were not associated with depression and anxiety, at any time. Lack of intimate confiding support also predicted more protracted episodes of depression and anxiety.
Conclusion Increased levels of depression, anxiety, or both in the first year after a diagnosis of early breast cancer highlight the need for dedicated service provision during this time. Psychological interventions for women with breast cancer who remain disease free should take account of the broader social context in which the cancer occurs, with a focus on improving social support.