Black breast cancer survivors have greater morbidity and mortality than White survivors. However, evidence comparing Black survivors’ psychological symptoms with their White counterparts has been mixed. Prior studies have not compared Black and White survivor’s distress-related symptom trajectories from pre- to post-treatment – the goal of the current study.
At three annual visits from shortly after diagnosis to 6 and 18 months post-treatment, 195 women (n = 163 White; n = 32 Black) reported their cancer-related distress (intrusive thoughts and avoidance), perceived stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, fatigue, and pain.
Adjusting for age, educational attainment, income, treatment type, stage at diagnosis, and physical comorbidities, Black and White breast cancer survivors had different trajectories of cancer-related distress (p = .004), intrusive thoughts about cancer diagnosis and treatment (p = .002), perceived stress (p = .04), emotional fatigue (p = .01), and vigor (p = .02). Specifically, among White women, these distress-related symptoms improved from diagnosis to 6 months post-treatment (ps  0.08).
Longitudinal assessment of the same breast cancer survivors from diagnosis to early survivorship revealed that Black and White survivors had divergent trajectories of psychological distress symptoms that were not reliably evident at a single timepoint. Overall, White women reported less psychological distress from pre- to post-treatment, but Black women’s distress remained high from diagnosis to 18 months post-treatment. If left untreated, Black women’s high distress levels may contribute to their poorer health throughout survivorship.

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