This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the XXV National Congress of the Italian Society of Geriatric Surgery

Open Access Research article

Depression in older breast cancer survivors

Paola Frazzetto1, Marco Vacante1, Michele Malaguarnera2*, Ernesto Vinci3, Francesca Catalano4, Emanuela Cataudella1, Filippo Drago2, Giulia Malaguarnera2, Francesco Basile5 and Antonio Biondi5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Senescence, Urological and Neurological Sciences, Cannizzaro Hospital Via Messina 829, 95125, University of Catania, Italy

2 International PhD programme in Neuropharmacology, University of Catania, Italy

3 Department of Oncology, Ospedale di Enna, Italy

4 Breast Unit, Department of Oncology, Cannizzaro Hospital Via Messina 829, 95125, Catania, Italy

5 Department of General Surgery, Section of General Surgery and Oncology, Vittorio Emanuele Hospital, Via Plebiscito 628 University of Catania, 95123 Catania, Italy

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Citation and License

BMC Surgery 2012, 12(Suppl 1):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-12-S1-S14

Published: 15 November 2012



Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women .The 5-year survival rate for this tumour is nowadays 85%, and the 61% of these women are still alive at 15 years. When depression symptoms are present as a consequence of breast cancer treatments, they may interfere negatively with patients’ quality of life. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of breast cancer treatment on the quality of life and the impact of depression on the health-related life.


We enrolled 173 women aged 65-75 years with early stage breast cancer diagnosed over the last 10 years, initially recruited to participate in a study examining heath-related quality of life in the first 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis. Participants were divided into four groups: 1) 46 breast cancer survivors (aged 65-70); 2) 62 women diagnosed with breast cancer (aged 65-69); 3) 32 women with recurrent breast cancer after 10 years (aged 66-75); 4) 30 women in good health status (aged 60-70). The Geriatric Depression Scale was used as a routine part of a comprehensive geriatric assessment. Collection of data for the application of instruments, such as sociodemographic variables (age, educational level, social state) and clinical date (stage and time of the disease and treatment), was carried out by trained researcher assistants.


Our results demonstrated the correlation between depression and previous cancer experiences. In fact, in patients with cancer experience, the grade of depression was significantly higher compared to healthy subjects. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the patients with recurrent breast cancer were severely depressed compared to other groups.


A high percentage of participants were identified as having emotional and/or well being problems. Further investigations on the cause of depression problems cancer-related are needed.