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Psycho-Endocrine-Immune Profile: Implications for Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients

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Final rept. 1 Nov 1998-31 Oct 2002

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Biopsy of the breast for cancer diagnosis is an emotional experience, characterized by anxiety and fear. This experience may impair immune responses. This study evaluated a womans immunological and psychological response pre and post breast biopsy. Perceived stress, anxiety, and mood disturbance were heightened pre-biopsy. Post-biopsy perceived stress, anxiety, and mood disturbance decreased but did not return to levels reported by non-biopsied control women. Natural killer NK cell activity was significantly depressed pre and post biopsy, when compared to non-biopsied, control women. Post biopsy, NK cell activity was less than that exhibited pre biopsy. No changes in number of NK cells were observed at either pre or post biopsy time points. Production of INF gamma was significantly reduced pre and post biopsy and production of IL-4, IL-6, and IL-l0 were significantly increased by the experience of breast biopsy. The reduction in NK cell activity after breast biopsy was more marked in women with malignant breast biopsy findings. The results also suggest that women who report the highest levels of stress or mood disturbance have the most marked changes in immune function. Thus, impending breast biopsy is marked by increased perceived stress, anxiety, and mood disturbance, which is relieved post-biopsy, but does not return to levels reported by non-biopsied women. In conclusion, stress-induced alterations in immunity are not transient but persist beyond the acute experience of the biopsy. This may be of particular relevance to women diagnosed with malignancy since they will be facing additional stressors related to cancer treatment and adaptation to illness.

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  • Psychology
  • Medicine and Medical Research

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