Recalled anxiety: from discovery to diagnosis of a benign breast mass

Oncol Nurs Forum. Nov-Dec 1994;21(10):1723-7.


Purpose/objectives: To determine the amount of anxiety recalled by women who have had benign breast biopsies and to describe coping strategies used by these women during the time from discovery of the mass to definitive diagnosis.

Design: Descriptive, retrospective.

Setting: Surgical oncology practices, private and academic, treating patients living in five southern states.

Sample: 238 women who had excisional biopsies with benign results within the previous two years. Mean age of 52 years, 80% Caucasian, and 20% African American.

Methods: Subjects rated their anxiety from discovery to diagnosis on a 16-point visual analogue scale and answered a short-answer question about the coping strategies used to deal with the anxiety.

Main research variables: Anxiety and coping strategies.

Findings: The mean length of time from discovery to diagnosis was 35 days. No statistically significant relationship was found between the length of time from discovery to diagnosis and the amount of anxiety experienced. However, 58% of the women recalled severe amounts of anxiety during this time. Qualitative analysis grouped coping strategies into five patterns (themes): diversionary, spiritual, interpersonal, hopeful, and avoidance.

Conclusions: The time between discovery of a breast mass and definitive diagnosis is a time of considerable anxiety for many women. Substantial time elapses between discovery and diagnosis, contributing to the possible morbidity associated with severe anxiety.

Implications for nursing practice: Nurses can work to decrease the time occupied by the diagnostic process, counsel women regarding the anxiety being experienced, and present coping strategies that may help.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / nursing
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Biopsy / psychology
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Southeastern United States
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors