Posttraumatic stress in women with family histories of breast cancer
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This study was designed to explore whether an individual's emotional reactions, as defined by cancer-specific distress, and cognitive reactions, as defined by perceived risk, to their relative's breast cancer increases their general symptoms of posttraumatic stress. It proposed that women with family histories of breast cancer (FH+) would display increased levels of breast cancer-specific distress as compared to women without first-degree relatives with breast cancer (FH-). It further suggested that FH+ women would have higher perceived risk of breast cancer as compared to FH- women. Last, this study proposed that FH+ women would have higher levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms as compared to FH- women, and that perceived risk and cancer-specific distress would serve as mediators in the relationship between family history of breast cancer and posttraumatic stress symptomatology.;One hundred sixty-four employees of major medical centers, including 91 FH+ women and 73 FH- women, completed a series of questionnaires measuring distress and perceived risk as well as demographic data. Group differences were assessed using t-tests. A series of regressions were used to explore the presence of the path model.;The results of this study indicated that women with a family history of breast cancer reported significantly higher levels of cancer-specific distress as compared to women without a family history of breast cancer. They further showed that women with a family history of breast cancer rated their risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer as significantly higher than women without a first-degree relative with breast cancer. Last, the results showed that women with a first-degree relative with breast cancer reported comparable levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms to women without a family history. However, the findings supported a path model whereby increased family history of breast cancer led to higher perceived risk which is associated with higher levels of cancer-specific distress; increased cancer-specific distress further led to higher levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Further analyses indicated that the avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder accounted for the relationship observed in the path model, while reexperiencing symptoms did not contribute to the relationship. Implications of these results are discussed.