Early-stage breast cancer could be most likely to kill women who had severe stress – a family death, divorce, financial crisis -in the year before diagnosis, a study says.
The research tracked 80 patients over seven years, starting within a year of their diagnosis. There were 20 recurrences and 15 deaths.
“It’s a very small study to be making any sweeping conclusion. But it does pose questions that need to be followed up on,” says Frances Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. The women, all diagnosed with stage 2 cancer that had not been detected beyond the lymph nodes.
Severe stress after their cancer diagnosis had no relation to recurrence or death, says psychiatrist Karen Weihs. But major troubles in the year before diagnosis nearly tripled the women’s odds of having a recurrence or dying from the disease, Weihs says.
Breast cancer is so stressful it can swamp any other troubles, blurring the differences in life stress among the women after diagnosis. Terrible jolts in the year before diagnosis could affect the body’s ability to fight off disease, Weihs says.