Original Paper

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 355-361

First online:

What do predict anxiety and depression in breast cancer patients? A follow-up study

  • Mariam VahdaniniaAffiliated withIranian Institute for Health Sciences Research (IHSR), ACECR
  • , Sepideh OmidvariAffiliated withIranian Institute for Health Sciences Research (IHSR), ACECR
  • , Ali MontazeriAffiliated withIranian Institute for Health Sciences Research (IHSR), ACECR Email author 

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Psychological adjustment following cancer occurrence remains a key issue among the survivors. This study aimed to investigate psychological distress in patients with breast cancer following completion of breast cancer treatments and to determine its associated factors.

Materials and methods

This was a prospective study of anxiety and depression in breast cancer patients. Anxiety and depression were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at three points in time: baseline (pre-diagnosis), 3 months after initial treatment and 1 year after completion of treatment (in all 18 months follow-up). At baseline, the questionnaires were administered to all the suspected patients while both patients and the interviewer were blind to the final diagnosis. Socio-demographic and clinical data included age, education, marital status, disease stage and initial treatment. Repeated measure analysis was performed to compare anxiety and depression over the study period. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine variables that predict anxiety and depression.


Altogether 167 patients were diagnosed with breast cancer. The mean age of breast cancer patients was 47.2 (SD = 13.5) years, and the vast majority underwent mastectomy (82.6%). At 18 months follow-up, data for 99 patients were available. The results showed that anxiety and depression improved over the time (P < 0.001) although at 18-month follow-up, 38.4% and 22.2% of the patients presented with severe anxiety and depression, respectively. ‘Fatigue’ was found to be a risk factor for developing anxiety and depression at 3 months follow-up [odds ratio (OR) = 1.04, 95% Confidence interval (CI) = 1.01–1.07 and OR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.02–1.07 respectively]. At 18 months follow-up, anxiety was predicted by ‘pain’ (OR = 1.02, 95% CI = 1.00–1.05), whereas depression was predicted by both ‘fatigue’ (OR = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.02–1.09) and ‘pain’ (OR = 1.05, 95% CI = 1.01–1.08).


Although the findings indicated that the levels of anxiety and depression decreased over time, a significant number of women had elevated anxiety and depression at the 18 months follow-up. This suggests that all women should be routinely screened for psychological distress and that quality cancer care include processes to treat that 30% of women who have elevated psychological distress. In addition, if breast cancer patients indicated that they are suffering from fatigue or pain, these women who are at particular risk should be especially screened.


Breast cancer Anxiety Depression Follow-up