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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 250-257

Breast cancer patients' experiences of psychological distress, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation

1 Durban Oncology Centre, Durban, South Africa
2 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

Correspondence Address:
Helena Van Oers
72 Dawncliffe Road, Westville, 3630, KZN
South Africa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jnsm.jnsm_136_20

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Background: The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer often result in significant psychological distress. However, the manner in which distress differentially affects patients with various forms of disease is less well researched. This study sought to examine the differences in the psychological experiences of patients diagnosed with breast cancer and those diagnosed with cancer in other sites with particular focus on stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation (SI). Materials and Methods: Convenience sampling was used to select participants comprising female patients with breast cancer (n = 80) and female patients with other forms of disease (n = 80) in Durban, South Africa. The participants were all receiving adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. These participants were asked to complete a questionnaire battery consisting of, inter alia, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and the Stress Symptom Checklist. Results: The results suggest that although the levels of depression between the two groups did not show any significant differences, breast cancer patients experienced notably higher levels of hopelessness and SI. Moreover, they expressed their stress through different responses, both in psychological and behavioral terms, which resemble the symptomatology present in anxiety. Conclusions: Breast cancer patients experience higher levels of hopelessness and SI as compared to patients with other forms of disease and express their stress by differing means. This study highlights for those professionals in health care, specifically those involved in oncology, the prevalence and the characteristics of this distress and the importance of identifying at-risk patients to further refer them for supportive therapy.

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