National surveys show that women are more than twice as likely as men to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and our prior research shows that African-American women from urban populations with low average income are at particularly high risk. However, little previous research has addressed the prevalence of PTSD in African-American women with breast cancer. In this study, we will assess the prevalence of PTSD related to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in patients at the Avon Breast Center at Grady Memorial Hospital, one of the nation’s model breast cancer treatment centers which focuses on addressing disparities in breast cancer outcomes for African-American women.

In addition, we will investigate neurobiological risk factors prior to diagnosis and treatment, that can predict who will maintain high levels of PTSD symptoms after treatment ends. Special emphasis will paid to neuroimaging studies of fear-related circuits in the brain and their association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system and inflammation.  Taken together, these studies will provide insight into the etiology of PTSD in women with breast cancer and pave the way for future studies with targeted early intervention strategies to prevent PTSD and thus improve long-term outcomes for cancer survivors. The proposed plan of research and training will also allow the candidate to benefit from a truly interdisciplinary team of mentors, including Dr. Andrew Miller and Dr. Tanja Jovanovic (Psychiatry), Dr. Sheryl Gabram-Mendola and Dr. Preeti Subhedar (Surgery), and Dr. Ying Guo (Biostatistics).