Psychological distress among women with breast problems

Ellen P. Romsaas, James F. Malec, Bruce R. Javenkoski, Donald L. Trump, William H. Wolberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Visiting a physician for evaluation of a breast problem which could be cancer is often assumed to be a highly stressful experience. This study evaluates the degree of emotional distress in women about to undergo examination for signs or symptoms of breast disease. Three hundred twenty‐two women who attended the Breast Problem Clinic of the Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center were studied. Each patient completed standard self‐administered psychologic tests to evaluate mood disturbance (Profile of Mood States [POMS]) and responsibility taken for overall health care (Health Locus of Control [HLCS]). Results of these tests were compared to control populations of normal college women and female psychiatric outpatients. The women seen in the Breast Problem Clinic were significantly less distressed on POMS subscales which measure depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion than both psychiatric outpatients and normal college women (P < 0.001). A second group of 17 women who were seen in the hospital 24 to 48 hours before definitive breast cancer surgery were also studied. Women evaluated as inpatients before breast cancer surgery were more distressed than the women attending the outpatient clinic on most POMS subscales, but were not clearly different from normal college women. No differences between the groups were seen for the HLCS. These data indicate that emotional distress among women attending a breast problem clinic is not extraordinary, but that emotional distress heightens when the diagnosis of breast cancer is known.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)890-895
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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    Romsaas, E. P., Malec, J. F., Javenkoski, B. R., Trump, D. L., & Wolberg, W. H. (1986). Psychological distress among women with breast problems. Cancer, 57(4), 890-895.<890::AID-CNCR2820570434>3.0.CO;2-4