Study reveals healthy outlook for long-term breast cancer survivors

January 01, 2002

A new study suggests that disease-free breast cancer survivors maintain an excellent quality of life many years after primary treatment. However, the study — one of the largest prospective studies to date looking at quality of life after breast cancer — also found that the use of adjuvant treatments, such as chemotherapy, tamoxifen, or a combination of both, was associated with a decrease in physical functioning over time.

This information may help physicians better assist their patients in making decisions about systemic adjuvant therapy, conclude Patricia A. Ganz, M.D., of the University of California at Los Angeles Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues. Their findings appear in the Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Women who survive breast cancer account for nearly half of all female cancer survivors. Previous studies have shown that these women maintain a healthy quality of life during the first several years after their primary treatment has ended. Few studies have looked at how these women fare years later.

In the new study, researchers resurveyed 763 breast cancer-free women who had participated in an earlier cross-sectional study looking at quality of life during the first 5 years after diagnosis. The follow-up re-evaluated these women, focusing on their quality of life between 5 and 9.5 years after diagnosis. Quality-of-life assessments included measures of general health, physical functioning, and emotional well-being.

Overall, the women in the follow-up study reported high levels of health, physical functioning, and emotional well-being. Their energy level and social functioning remained the same as in the initial survey. The researchers also found that the social support that the survivors received seemed to predict how they assessed their current quality of life.

In the follow-up study, the women also reported less frequent hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal discharge, and breast sensitivity than they reported in the initial study. But they experienced more vaginal dryness and loss of urinary control. Women in the follow-up study also reported a decline in sexual activity. The researchers note that these symptoms and sexual problems increased modestly and that the increase may be related to the normal aging process.

Studies have suggested that systemic adjuvant therapy could improve the likelihood of disease-free and overall survival in women with breast cancer. In separate analyses, the authors looked at the late effects of adjuvant systemic therapy (chemotherapy, tamoxifen, or a combination of both) on quality of life and reported a statistically significant decrease in physical functioning associated with adjuvant therapy, even many years after the therapy ended. "These findings suggest that there may be ... effects from treatment that do not appear until many years later," the authors conclude.

The authors note that the study was limited to only women from Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, Calif., and that the response rate was only 61%, but they maintain that their findings may help patients and physicians make more informed decisions about adjuvant therapy.
Contact: Kim Irwin, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, (310) 206-2805, fax: (310) 206-5553,

Ganz PA, Desmond KA, Leedham B, Rowland JH, Meyerowitz BE, Belin TR. Quality of life in long-term disease-free survivors of breast cancer: a follow-up study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:39-49.

Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to