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Incidence and Psychophysiology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Breast Cancer Victims and Witnesses

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Final rept. 26 Sep 1994-25 Sep 1999

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This study evaluated breast-cancer patients and their witnesses significant others for post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD related to the patients breast cancer experience. Participants were interviewed by telephone with the PTSD Checklist PCL, invited to come for a personal interview with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale CAPS, and then invited for psychophysiologic testing. The estimated incidence of breast cancer-related PTSD during the approximately two years elapsed since tissue diagnosis was 24 2187 in patients and 23 731 in witnesses. The estimated point prevalence of breast cancer-related PTSD at the time of interview was 9 887 in patients and 3 131 in witnesses. Physiologic responses were measured in 5 Current, 7 Past, and 25 Never patients, and in 1 Current, 5 Past, and 17 Never witnesses, while they listened to tape-recorded scripts portraying their personal experiences with breast cancer. MANOVA yielded an overall group effect of F8,622.5, p.O2 for patients and F4,186.8, p.OO2 for witnesses. Current PTSD patients showed statistically larger heart rate, skin conductance, and corrugator electromyogram responses than both Past and Never patients. CurrentPast PTSD witnesses showed statistically larger skin conductance responses than Never witnesses. We conclude that being diagnosed with breast cancer can cause psychophysiologically reactive PTSD in breast cancer patients and their witnesses.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Stress Physiology

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