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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A prospective study of changes in anxiety, depression, and problems in living during chemotherapy treatments: effects of age and gender.

  • Author(s): Bergerot, Cristiane Decat
  • Mitchell, Hannah-Rose
  • Ashing, Kimlin Tam
  • Kim, Youngmee
  • et al.


Monitoring distress assessment in cancer patients during the treatment phase is a component of good quality care practice. Yet, there is a dearth of prospective studies examining distress. In an attempt to begin filling this gap and inform clinical practice, we conducted a prospective, longitudinal study examining changes in distress (anxiety, depression, and problems in living) by age and gender and the roles of age and gender in predicting distress.


Newly diagnosed Brazilian cancer patients (N = 548) were assessed at three time points during chemotherapy. Age and gender were identified on the first day of chemotherapy (T1); anxiety, depression, and problems in living were self-reported at T1, the planned midway point (T2), and the last day of chemotherapy (T3).


At T1, 37 and 17% of patients reported clinically significant levels of anxiety and depression, respectively. At T3, the prevalence was reduced to 4.6% for anxiety and 5.1% for depression (p < .001). Patients 40-55 years, across all time points, reported greater anxiety and practical problems than patients >70 years (p < .03). Female patients reported greater emotional, physical, and family problems than their male counterparts (p < .04).


For most patients, elevated levels of distress noted in the beginning of treatment subsided by the time of treatment completion. However, middle-aged and female patients continued to report heightened distress. Evidence-based psychosocial intervention offered to at risk patients during early phases of the treatment may provide distress relief and improve outcomes over the illness trajectory while preventing psychosocial and physical morbidity due to untreated chronic distress.

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