Breast cancer is a devastating diagnosis for any women; however, with advances in treatment, the number of long-term survivors is on the increase. These women have gone through a depressing period ranging from the initial diagnosis to the subsequent treatment, which often includes, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. A new study has found that over time these survivors return to a quality of life comparable to women who have not suffered the devastation of breast cancer. The results of the study, which was published by researchers at the University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) online on August 26 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The researchers note that there is considerable interest in the quality of life of long-term breast cancer survivors. Therefore, they conducted a study that evaluated changes in quality of life from the time of breast cancer diagnosis to long-term survivorship. They compared the quality of life in these women to that of age-matched women with no history of breast cancer.
The study group initially comprised 535 women with localized breast cancer (cancer that had not metastasized) who were recruited from 1989 to 1996 and followed from enrollment to the 2005 to 2007 present. The women completed questionnaires at diagnosis and one year post-diagnosis. Between 2005 and 2007, the women who were alive and without distant recurrence were recontacted to participate in a long-term follow-up study. A control group was recruited from women presenting for screening mammograms, and both groups completed quality of life questionnaires. The longitudinal change (change over time) in breast cancer survivors and differences between breast cancer survivors and controls were assessed in eight broad categories with clinically significant differences set at 5% and 10% of the breadth of each quality of life scale.
A total of 285 women with breast cancer were included in the study, on average 12.5 years post-diagnosis. Longitudinally, clinically significant improvements were observed in overall quality of life by one year post-diagnosis with further improvements during long-term follow-up. Some clinically significant improvements over time were seen in all categories. A total of 167 controls were recruited. Compared to women in the control group, deficits were observed in self-reported cognitive functioning (5.3% difference) and financial impact (6.3% difference) in breast cancer survivors at long-term follow-up.
The authors concluded that long-term breast cancer survivors show improvement in many quality of life areas over time, and they appear to have similar quality of life in most respects to age-matched non-cancer controls, although small deficits in cognition and finances were identified.
Take home message:
This study should boost the spirits of women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Women are survivors!