MU Health Psychology Department says stress contributes to cognitive decline in breast cancer

Apr 12, 2012

The Health Psychology Department in the Missouri School of Health Professions has released a study saying stress contributes to cognitive decline in women with breast cancer. 

“Chomo brain” has always been known to be responsible for cognitive decline in breast cancer patients. But Dr. Stephanie Reid-Arndt’s study blames another contributor: stress. Stress can negatively affect verbal fluency, memory, and attention span in breast cancer patients. Epidemiologist Dr. Jane McElroy is familiar with the study. She says doctors have actually known for a while that good mental health can have positive effects on breast cancer patients.

“We know in other studies that there’s been statistically significant, improved survival outcome in breast cancer survivors just by getting massage therapy. Going to get a massage once a week, that’s a way of distressing,” McElroy said. 

McElroy says she believes doctors should have conversations with their breast cancer patients about their everyday lives so those physicians can better detect stress.