Anxiety in caregiving partners of breast cancer patients

  • Friederike HoellenEmail author
  • Julian Frederik Wagner
  • Dörte W. Lüdders
  • Achim Rody
  • Constanze Banz-Jansen
Gynecologic Oncology



The aim of the present study was to determine the levels of anxiety of partners of breast cancer patients and to evaluate the differences of anxiety levels between patients and partners according to the stage of treatment, age and education level.


57 spouses or domestic partners of breast cancer patients and 148 breast cancer patients participated in this prospective cohort study and filled out the questionnaires including the Spielberger state-trait-anxiety-inventory, as well as questions based on stress-triggering procedures during breast cancer diagnosis and therapy.


State anxiety levels of partners were highest in partners who accompanied their patients when presenting for examinations and operations and tumorboard decisions (Mean State-Scores 52, 45 and 46.5). Anxiety scores were lowest at the stage of ongoing chemotherapy or follow-up. The 25% quartile of partners with the highest state anxiety levels had a significantly higher educational level (p = 0.023). Young men aged 18–35 years showed the highest levels of both trait and state anxiety. Partners showed significantly higher levels of anxiety than the patients for anesthetic complications (p < 0.001), e.g., fear of not waking up from general anesthetic and postoperative pain (p < 0.001). Patients showed significantly higher levels of anxiety for hairloss (p < 0.001), weight gain during chemotherapy (p < 0.001) and postoperative scars (p = 0.027).


Breast cancer patients are much more concerned about body image issues than their male partners. As these body image-associated concerns often arise from the fear of loosing attraction to their partner, these fears might be reduced by speaking about them openly. Partners are mostly concerned about surgery and anesthetic-related complications. Therefore, preoperative medical information to the partner is mandatory. Partners of breast cancer patients should be included in psycho-oncological support and medical briefings. Probably high anxiety levels of both partners and patients should be taken into account (due to younger age, lower educational level and procedures causing distress). These partners and patients should receive extra careful (clarification) counselling and (treatment support such as a psycho-oncologist) involvement of a psyco-oncologist.


Treatment Anxiety Breast cancer Chemotherapy 


Author contributions

Constanze Banz-Jansen: Protocol/project development, Data collection or management, Data analysis. Julian Frederik Wagner: Protocol/project development, Data collection or management, Data analysis, Manuscript writing/editing. Friederike Hoellen: Manuscript writing/editing, Data analysis. Achim Rody: Protocol/project development, Manuscript writing/editing. Dörte Lüdders: Protocol/project development, Manuscript writing/editing.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsUniversity Hospital of Schleswig-HolsteinLübeckGermany
  2. 2.Department of Cardiac SurgeryUniversity InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsMedical Campus Carl Von Ossietzky University OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsEvangelisches Klinikum BethelBielefeldGermany

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