The perception of support received from breast care nurses by depressed patients following a diagnosis of breast cancer

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

Due to their specialist training, breast care nurses (BCNs) should be able to detect emotional distress and offer support to breast cancer patients. However, patients who are most distressed after diagnosis generally experience least support from care staff. To test whether BCNs overcome this potential barrier, we compared the support experienced by depressed and non-depressed patients from their BCNs and the other main professionals involved in their care: surgeons and ward nurses.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

Women with primary breast cancer (n = 355) 2–4 days after mastectomy or wide local excision, self-reported perceived professional support and current depression. Analysis of variance compared support ratings of depressed and non-depressed patients across staff types.

RESULTS

There was evidence of depression in 31 (9%) patients. Depressed patients recorded less surgeon and ward nurse support than those who were not depressed but the support received by patients from the BCN was high, whether or not patients were depressed.

CONCLUSIONS

BCNs were able to provide as much support to depressed patients as to non-depressed patients, whereas depressed patients felt less supported by surgeons and ward nurses than did non-depressed patients. Future research should examine the basis of BCNs' ability to overcome barriers to support in depressed patients. Our findings confirm the importance of maintaining the special role of the BCN.

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