Presurgery Psychological Factors Predict Pain, Nausea, and Fatigue One Week After Breast Cancer Surgery

Guy H. Montgomery, Julie B. Schnur, Joel Erblich, Michael A. Diefenbach, Dana H. Bovbjerg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Before scheduled surgery, breast cancer surgical patients frequently experience high levels of distress and expect a variety of postsurgery symptoms. Previous literature has supported the view that presurgery distress and response expectancies are predictive of postsurgery outcomes. However, the contributions of distress and response expectancies to postsurgical side effect outcomes have rarely been examined together within the same study. Furthermore, studies on the effects of response expectancies in the surgical setting have typically focused on the immediate postsurgical setting rather than the longer-term setting. The purpose of the present study was to test the contribution of presurgery distress and response expectancies to common postsurgery side effects (pain, nausea, and fatigue). Female patients (n = 101) undergoing breast cancer surgery were recruited to a prospective study. Results indicated that presurgery distress uniquely contributed to patients' postsurgery pain severity (P < 0.05) and fatigue (P < 0.003) one week after surgery. Response expectancies uniquely contributed to pain severity (P < 0.001), nausea (P < 0.012), and fatigue (P < 0.010) one week after surgery. Sobel tests indicated that response expectancies partially mediated the effects of distress on pain severity (P < 0.03) and fatigue (P < 0.03). Response expectancies also mediated the effects of age on pain severity, nausea, and fatigue. Results highlight the contribution of presurgery psychological factors to postsurgery side effects, the importance of including both emotional and cognitive factors within studies as predictors of postsurgery side effects, and suggest presurgical clinical targets for improving patients' postoperative experiences of side effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1052
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Response expectancies
  • breast cancer
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • pain
  • side effects
  • surgery


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