The mental health impacts of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis: A meta-analysis

Br J Cancer. 2021 Nov;125(11):1582-1592. doi: 10.1038/s41416-021-01542-3. Epub 2021 Sep 4.


Background: Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be a turning point with negative impacts on mental health, treatment and prognosis. This meta-analysis sought to determine the nature and prevalence of clinically significant psychological distress-related symptoms in the wake of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Methods: Ten databases were searched between March and August 2020. Thirty-nine quantitative studies were meta-analysed.

Results: The prevalence of clinically significant symptoms was 39% for non-specific distress (n = 13), 34% for anxiety (n = 19), 31% for post-traumatic stress (n = 7) and 20% for depression (n = 25). No studies reporting breast cancer patients' well-being in our specific time frame were found.

Conclusion: Mental health can be impacted in at least four domains following a diagnosis of breast cancer and such effects are commonplace. This study outlines a clear need for mitigating the impacts on mental health brought about by breast cancer diagnosis. CRD42020203990.

Keywords: depression; oncology, anxiety; post-traumatic stress; psychological distress; well-being.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / trends*