Symptoms After Breast Cancer Treatment

Are They Influenced by Patient Characteristics?

Published In: Breast Cancer Research and treatment, v. 108, no. 2, Mar. 2008, p. 153-165

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2007

by Jean Yoon, Jennifer Malin, May Lin Tao, Diana M. Tisnado, John L. Adams, Martha J. Timmer, Patricia A. Ganz, Katherine L. Kahn

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PURPOSE: This study examines the burden of symptoms by treatment type and patient characteristics in a population-based sample of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. METHODS: Using the Los Angeles County SEER Registry Rapid Case Ascertainment, we identified a cohort of breast cancer patients in 2000 and conducted telephone surveys in English and Spanish among participants. RESULTS: The authors completed interviews of 1,219 breast cancer patients and found almost half (46%) had at least one severe symptom (any of the following: nausea/vomiting, arm problems, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping) that interfered with her daily functioning or mood. Multi-variate analysis controlling for patient characteristics and treatment showed that older (OR = 0.90; P < 0.000), black (OR = 0.50; P < 0.000), Hispanic Spanish-speaking (OR = 0.37; P < 0.000), widowed or never married (OR = 0.68; P = 0.049), and working (OR = 0.72; P = 0.024) women were less likely to report severe symptoms than other women. Number of comorbid conditions (OR = 1.21; P < 0.000) and receipt of chemotherapy (OR = 1.48; P = 0.040) were positively associated with reporting symptoms. CONCLUSION: These findings estimate the prevalence of several mutable symptoms in breast cancer patients that can be addressed by appropriate treatments. Comorbidity is a significant predictor of symptoms, especially amongst those receiving chemotherapy. Variation in symptom reporting occurred by race/ethnicity and other sociodemographic characteristics, raising questions of different thresholds for reporting symptoms or truly fewer symptoms for some sociodemographic groups. Population-based estimates of the probability of symptoms in women with incident breast cancer can be used to provide patient education about potential outcomes following the treatment of breast cancer.

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