It is widely accepted that a cancer diagnosis is a stressful and often traumatic experience for patients. Stress as a psychological side-effect of diagnosis has been well-researched. However, it is also possible that the life changing and potentially life-threatening aspects of disease may lead to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including heightened anxiety, intrusive and distressing thoughts, avoidance of reminders of the trauma and sleeping disturbances. These symptoms may be of short duration but studies show that is possible for patients to live with PTSD for years after diagnosis and treatment. Even if not all the criteria for a full PTSD diagnosis are present, subthreshold or subsyndromal PTSD has been shown to cause significant distress and affect the quality of life of breast cancer patients. Given that with earlier diagnoses and ever more effective treatment interventions, the number of women who survive cancer and whose survival intervals are longer, identification, monitoring and treatment of patients living with PTSD becomes ever more important.
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