Depression, Parenting Stress in Mothers Not Related to Breast Cancer

In parents with breast cancer, researchers have determined that child-related factors and depression were not related to breast cancer, and that tailored counseling and support are both necessary.

In a study published on JAMA Network Open, 699 women with stages 0 to 3 breast cancer were evaluated to see if having breast cancer affected mental health, such as depression, and parenting stress.

Of the 699 women included in the study, 499 patients were parents, of which 409 patients gave birth before receiving their diagnosis and nine patients gave birth after. The median age of patients without children was 37.3 years, whereas the median age for patients with children was 40.5 years.

The study authors determined that among patients with children, parenting stress was associated with depression. Factors related to stress included age, temperament, emotional problems and patterns of sleep, according to the study. After the researchers analyzed and compared parenting stress to breast cancer, they found that there was no direct correlation.

However, study authors determined that patients with children, who had a high school educational level and received gonadotropin-releasing hormone treatment (which decreases the amount of certain hormones in the body) had an increased risk of depression.

“Among cancer-related factors, disease duration and (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) treatment were associated with maternal depression,” the study authors wrote. “Other cancer-related factors, such as breast cancer stage, BRCA1and BRCA2sequence variation and other treatment modalities, were not associated with depression, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies investigating the association between depression and breast cancer.”

The study authors also noted that although studies in the past have analyzed chemotherapy and its effect on the mind, this study focused on the mental effects gonadotropin-releasing hormone treatment had on patients with breast cancer.

“We found that (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) treatment alone increased the risk of depression in patients who had not undergone chemotherapy,” the study authors wrote. “In general, patients are educated and prepared for chemotherapy prior to treatment, particularly regarding its (potentially) toxic effects; however, such preparation is not common for endocrine therapy.”

READ MORE: Mother With Stage 4 Breast Cancer and Her Family ‘Focus on the Living’

When the study authors analyzed maternal parenting stress regarding caregiver status and child behavioral problems, they found that it was not associated with factors regarding cancer. They noted that mothers with breast cancer who were the main caregivers for their children had higher levels of parenting stress, compared with mothers who had other family members help with caregiving.

“Results of the present study indicated that parenting stress may be more likely to be affected by child-related factors rather than cancer- or treatment-related factors. Thus, when treating mothers with breast cancer, (doctors) should pay attention to the children’s mental health and parenting conditions,” the authors wrote in the study.

The study authors also focused on the emotional development of children with parents who have breast cancer. Similar to their previous findings, they reported that there was “no remarkable association” between a child’s emotional development and their parent’s breast cancer diagnosis or treatment.

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