Psychiatric and Psychological Issues

  • David Spiegel


Breast cancer is inherently stressful. Every person diagnosed with the disease immediately experiences understandable fear of dying of cancer, despite the fact that half of all breast cancer patients will live to die of something else. They also fear disfigurement, despite the increasing prevalence of breast-sparing treatments such as lumpectomy and radiation. These concerns tend to isolate them from social support, since such fundamental concerns arouse anxiety in others as well, and may lead to avoidance on both sides. Cancer treatments can induce nausea, fatigue, burns, lymphedema, disfigurement, and pain. The illness and its treatment cause acute disruption of educational, vocational, and social roles. Thus, it is natural that breast cancer patients experience stress, distress, anxiety, and depression. Few people are well prepared by life for the multiple existential problems that come with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Recognizing that these issues are always part of returning a patient to a well-state allows the clinician to better support patients and enables the astute clinician to recognize the potential need for consultation from a psychologist or psychiatrist.


Breast Cancer Breast Cancer Patient Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Primary Negative Gamma Amino Butyric Acid 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford Center for Integrative MedicineStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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