Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 292-299

First online:

Correlates of depressive symptomatology in African-American breast cancer patients

  • Vanessa B. SheppardAffiliated withDepartment of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer CenterCancer Prevention and Control Program, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Email author 
  • , Adana A. LlanosAffiliated withDivision of Population Sciences, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • , Alejandra Hurtado-de-MendozaAffiliated withDepartment of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • , Teletia R. TaylorAffiliated withHoward University Cancer Center
  • , Lucile L. Adams-CampbellAffiliated withLombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Research Building E 501

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This study assessed the levels of depressive symptomatology in African-American women with breast cancer compared to those of women without breast cancer and examined demographic, psychosocial, and clinical factors correlated with depression.


A total of 152 African-American women were recruited from Washington, DC and surrounding suburbs. Breast cancer patients (n = 76 cases) were recruited from a health care center and women without cancer were recruited from health fairs (n = 76 comparison). We assessed depression, psychosocial variables (ego strength and social support), and sociodemographic factors from in-person interviews. Stage and clinical factors were abstracted from medical records. Independent sample t test, chi square test, analyses of variance, and multiple regression models were used to identify differences in depression and correlates of depression among the cases and comparison groups.


Women with breast cancer reported significantly greater levels of depression (m = 11.5, SD = 5.0) than women without breast cancer (m = 3.9, SD = 3.8) (p < 0.001). Higher cancer stage (beta = 0.91) and higher age (beta = 0.11) were associated with depression in the breast patients, explaining 84 % of the variance. In the comparison group, ego strength and tangible support were inversely associated with depressive symptoms, accounting for 32 % of the variance.


Women with more advanced disease may require interdisciplinary approaches to cancer care (i.e., caring for the whole person).

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Depression is often underrecognized and undertreated in African-American breast cancer patients. Understanding the factors related to depression is necessary to integrate psychosocial needs to routine cancer care to improve survivors’ quality of life.


Breast cancer Oncology Depression African-American Ego strength Social support