Dr. Heather Bush, Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics, and Dr. Ann Coker, Professor, Department of Epidemiology, both of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health are authors of “Intimate partner violence and women’s cancer quality of life,” which appeared in the January 2017 issue of Cancer Causes & Control.
[Photo: Dr. Heather Bush (left) and Dr. Ann Coker]
Because intimate partner violence (IPV) may disproportionately impact women’s quality of life (QOL) when undergoing cancer treatment, women experiencing IPV were hypothesized to have (a) more symptoms of depression or stress and (b) lower QOL as measured with the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT-B) and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Spiritual Well-being (FACIT-SP) Scales relative to those never experiencing IPV.
Methods: Women, aged 18–79, who were included in one of two state cancer registries from 2009 to 2015 with a recent incident, primary, invasive biopsy-confirmed cancer diagnosis were recruited and asked to complete a phone interview, within 12 months of diagnosis. This interview measured IPV by timing (current and past) and type (physical, sexual, psychological), socio-demographics, and health status. Cancer registries provided consenting women’s cancer stage, site, date of diagnosis, and age.
Results: In this large cohort of 3,278 women who completed a phone interview, 1,221 (37.3%) disclosed lifetime IPV (10.6% sexual, 24.5% physical, and 33.6% psychological IPV). Experiencing IPV (particularly current IPV) was associated with poorer cancer-related QOL defined as having more symptoms of depression and stress after cancer diagnosis and lower FACIT-SP and FACT scores than women not experiencing IPV and controlling for confounders including demographic factors, cancer stage, site, and number of comorbid conditions. Current IPV was more strongly associated with poorer QOL. When compared with those experiencing past IPV (and no IPV), women with cancer who experienced current IPV had significantly higher depression and stress symptoms scores and lower FACIT-SP and FACT-G scores indicating poorer QOL for all domains. While IPV was not associated with being diagnosed at a later cancer stage, current IPV was significantly associated with having more than one comorbid physical conditions at interview (adjusted rate ratio = 1.35; 95% confidence interval 1.19–1.54) and particularly for women diagnosed with cancer when <55 years of age.
Conclusions: Current and past IPV were associated with poorer mental and physical health functioning among women recently diagnosed with cancer. Including clinical IPV screening may improve women’s cancer-related QOL.