Fighting violence against women

Domestic Abuse Worsens Response to Cancer Diagnosis

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By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 28, 2013 ~ 1 min read

Domestic Abuse Worsens Response to Cancer DiagnosisNew research finds that intimate partner violence can be more of an influence on a cancer survivor’s quality of life than her diagnosis.

In a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, University of Kentucky researchers found evidence that certain forms of abuse affect a woman’s levels of depression, perceived stress, and cancer-related well-being.

Experts discovered intimate partner violence (including physical, sexual, and psychological violence) and childhood sexual abuse were key contributors to depression.

The cross-sectional study included women newly diagnosed with either breast, cervical or colorectal cancer and included in the Kentucky Cancer Registry. Consenting women were interviewed by phone and 553 participated in the study.

Researchers acknowledge that many cancer patients frequently experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

But they observed that women who had experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) were significantly more likely to report depressive symptoms at cancer diagnosis relative to cancer patients never experiencing IPV.

This observation suggests that women’s depressive symptoms surrounding a cancer diagnosis may be more directly associated with IPV than with the cancer treatment alone.

Additionally, those who had experienced childhood sexual abuse were more likely to report co-morbid conditions beyond the cancer diagnosis and higher current stress levels.

“These data suggest that identifying these forms of abuse in cancer patients may provide health care providers with helpful information to better support and improve the well-being of female cancer patients,” said first author Ann L. Coker, Ph.D.

“Clinicians could improve physical and psychological functioning of women with cancer by asking women about their current and lifetime experience with these forms of abuse and providing appropriate referrals and services depending on the individual woman’s experiences

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