Psychosocial impact of metastatic breast cancer

In 2016 Mary presented at the 8th International Social Work conference in Singapore on the psychosocial impact of living with secondary breast cancer (psychological morbidity, coping styles, physical symptoms and economic impact) based on data collected from our group and experience over 17 years.

A summary of our findings are:

  • women come into the group with clinical levels of distress and trauma symptoms but make significant improvement after 12 months in the group
  • QOL, physical health and role functioning significantly worsened over first 12 months in group, but emotional, cognitive and social functioning remained resilient
  • women are more likely to show ‘fighting spirit’ and least likely to show ‘hopelessness and helplessness’ in coping with their cancer
  • 25% women in our group were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer as first diagnosis
  • illness imposes significant financial burden on women and families
  • 75% women are married or defacto but still seek out the group to overcome their isolation and find out how other women cope
  • many women free alienated from the ‘pink’ breast cancer movement and don’t feel their needs are met in groups for women with primary breast cancer
  • women, partners and adult children fear burdening each other with their distress and need support and encouragement to share their feelings
  • the burden of physical symptoms, pain and fatigue cannot be underestimated
  • regular scans to monitor progression generate anxiety
  • every progression is devastating
  • death of women in the group while confronting also helps women prepare for their own death and learn from others.

Additional benefits of the group are:

  • it supports women to adhere to debilitating anti cancer treatments
  • women become active participants in their treatment
  • most women end their lives with a peaceful ‘good’ death

To see the full presentation go to the Health Professionals page of our website where you will find some of our other presentations and publications.