Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Effect of counselling on the psychiatric morbidity associated with mastectomy.

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 29 November 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:1454
  1. P Maguire,
  2. A Tait,
  3. M Brooke,
  4. C Thomas,
  5. R Sellwood


    A controlled trial was conducted to determine whether counselling by a specialist nurse prevented the psychiatric morbidity associated with mastectomy and breast cancer. Seventy-five patients were counselled by the nurse and monitored during follow-up, while 77 patients received only the care normally given by the surgical unit. Counselling failed to prevent morbidity, but the nurse's regular monitoring of the women's progress led her to recognise and refer 76% of those who needed psychiatric help. Only 15% of the control group whose condition warranted help were recognised and referred. Consequently, 12 to 18 months after mastectomy there was much less psychiatric morbidity in the counselled group (12%) than in the control group (39%). These findings highlight the high degree of psychiatric morbidity in patients who have undergone mastectomy and indicate the need to find ways of reducing this morbidity.