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Psychologic changes after a gynecologic cancer


Dr Rodney Petersen, University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Royal Women's Hospital, 132 Grattan St, Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria 3053, Australia. Email:


Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the wider psychologic symptomatology experienced by women with a new diagnosis of a gynecologic cancer at the point of diagnosis and 6 weeks later.

Methods: A prospective cohort study was carried out with ethics committee approval and informed consent. Women were recruited from three tertiary hospitals in Australia over an 8-month period. In order to cover a diverse range of potential symptomatology, we utilized the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL)-90, which covers 90 separate psychologic symptoms that can then be coded into eight domains. Women also completed questions relating to their perceived level of social support, and demographic data were collated separately.

Results: Key findings were that levels of symptomatology remained uniform across the first 6 weeks following the diagnosis of the cancer regardless of the site of the cancer. Across the spectrum of symptomatology domains, the median scores were all higher in women with poor social supports compared with those with higher social support levels at 6 weeks. Statistically significant differences were observed in the domains of phobic-anxiety, retarded depression, and agitated depression at 6 weeks’ follow up.

Conclusion: Women with a new diagnosis of a gynecologic cancer experience diverse psychologic symptomatology. Symptoms persist over the first 6 weeks and are higher in women with poor social supports. Screening of women for adequate social support structure and targeted interventions to resolve symptomatology need to be tailored to the type of symptoms experienced.