Greater Post-Surgical Pain Predicts Long-Term Depressed Affect in Breast Cancer Patients: The Role of Coping.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Depressed affect is observed during primary treatment for early-stage breast cancer and often persists into survivorship. Pain can influence the long-term emotions of women with breast cancer. Behavioral mechanisms explaining this relationship are less clear. Coping during primary treatment may play a role in the association between pain and depressed affect.


Our observational study examined a longitudinal mediation model testing whether post-surgical pain intensity predicted depressed affect 5 years later via disengagement and/or engagement coping at the end of treatment.


Women (N = 240) with stage 0-III breast cancer completed measures of pain, coping, and depressed affect 4-10 weeks post-surgery, and 12 months and 5 years later.


Structural modeling yielded measurement models of 12-month disengagement and engagement coping. Direct effects emerged between post-surgical pain intensity and 12-month disengagement (β = .37, p < .001) and engagement coping (β = .16, p < .05). Post-surgical pain intensity was also related to 5-year depressed affect (β = .25, p < .05). Disengagement and engagement coping were not associated with depressed affect at 5-year follow-up, and there was no evidence of mediation.


This is a secondary analysis of data from a trial conducted several years ago, and may not generalize due to a homogenous sample with attrition at long-term follow-up.


Greater post-surgical pain intensity predicts more disengagement and engagement coping at the end of primary treatment, as well as depressed affect during survivorship. Managing post-surgical pain may influence the emotions of survivors of breast cancer up to 5 years later, possibly through coping or non-coping processes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fisher, HM; Taub, CJ; Lechner, SC; Antoni, MH

Published Date

  • October 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 28 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 171 - 182

PubMed ID

  • 36168524

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9511975

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2512-8450

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2512-8442

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1027/2512-8442/a000084


  • eng