The Impact of Cancer and Quality of Life Among Long-Term Survivors of Breast Cancer in Austria

Published in: Supportive Care in Cancer, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on July 14, 2016

by Kathryn E. Bouskill, Michael Kramer

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Research Question

  1. What is the association between the perceived impact of cancer, and physical and mental health-related quality of life among long-term survivors of breast cancer in Austria?

Purpose

This study explores the relationship between the perceived impact of cancer among long-term breast cancer survivors, sociodemographic and clinical variables, and mental and physical health-related quality of life outcomes in Austria.

Methods

One hundred and fifty-two long-term survivors of breast cancer (on average 13 years after initial diagnosis) completed three mailed surveys, including the Short Form-36 (SF-36), the Impact of Cancer (version 2) to assess the perceived positive and negative aspects of cancer survivorship, and a general sociodemographic and clinical questionnaire. Linear regression models were constructed to determine the effects of the perceived positive and negative impact of cancer on mental and physical health-related quality of life.

Results

Respondents reported a physical health status that centered on population norms for Austria, but scored lower on mental health status. After controlling for age, chemotherapy, exercise, and BMI, the positive impact of cancer was associated with improved physical functioning (p = 0.0014) and the negative impact of cancer was associated with poorer physical functioning (p < 0.0001). After controlling for age, marital status, the belief in emotional distress as a cause of cancer, and high stress levels, the negative impact of cancer was associated with poorer mental functioning (p < 0.0001). Higher perceived positive impact of cancer was not associated with improved mental functioning.

Conclusions

Long-term survivors of breast cancer in Austria perceive both positive and negative impacts of breast cancer. These perceptions, in particular the negative impact of cancer, appear to influence, or are potentially influenced by, physical and mental health-related quality of life.

Key Findings

  • Breast cancer can engender both positive and negative impacts on the lives of long-term survivors. These perceived impacts of cancer among long-term breast cancer survivors in Austria are influenced by, and in term potentially influence, physical and mental health-related quality of life.
  • An overall negative impact of cancer was associated with both poorer physical and mental health-related quality of life.
  • An overall positive impact of cancer was associated with improved physical health-related quality of life, but not mental health-related quality of life.

Recommendation

Giving more attention to the socially and culturally influenced impacts of breast cancer could benefit the quality of life of the growing population of long-term breast cancer survivors.

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