Diagnosis and treatment delays among elderly breast cancer patients with pre-existing mental illness

Kristy Iglay, Melissa L. Santorelli, Kim Hirshfield, Jill Williams, George Rhoads, Yong Lin, Kitaw Demissie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aimed to compare diagnosis and treatment delays in elderly breast cancer patients with and without pre-existing mental illness. Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results—Medicare data including 16,636 women 68+ years, who were diagnosed with stage I–IIIa breast cancer in the United States from 2005 to 2007. Mental illness was identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes recorded on inpatient and outpatient claims during the 3 years prior to breast cancer diagnosis. Patients were classified as having no mental illness, anxiety, depression, anxiety and depression, or severe mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorder). Multivariable binomial regression was used to assess the association between mental illness and delays of ≥60 and ≥90 days after adjustment for confounders. Results: Patients with comorbid anxiety and depression had an increased risk for diagnosis delay of ≥90 days from symptom recognition (RR 1.11; 95% CI 1.00, 1.23), and those with severe mental illness had an increased risk for initial treatment delay of ≥60 days from diagnosis (RR 1.36; 95% CI 1.06, 1.74). Patients with any mental illness experienced an increased risk for adjuvant chemotherapy delay of ≥90 days from last operation (RR 1.13; 95% CI 1.01, 1.26) and each category of mental illness, except depression, showed a non-significant trend for this association. Conclusion: Breast cancer patients with mental illness should be closely managed by a cross-functional care team, including a psychiatrist, a primary care physician, and an oncologist, to ensure adequate care is received within an appropriate timeframe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Chemotherapy
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Mental disorders
  • Radiation

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