TAMPA, Fla. – Although 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, quality of life for young cancer patients is good and can be improved with holistic knowledge about treatment impacts, according to Moffitt Cancer Center researchers.
The new study looked at the different ways completed treatment will impact a woman’s life including her health, financial situation, relationships, sexuality and appearance. Moffitt researchers found younger cancer patients have excellent quality of life despite their unique life pressures.
“No other study has yet been published on this age group, breast cancer survivors under the age of 50. At Moffitt, we’re accustomed to successfully treating a high volume of young breast cancer patients. It is why our institution was able to complete this study,” M. Catherine Lee, M.D., a surgical oncologist in the Center for Women’s Oncology at Moffitt.
Each year, 40,000 women under 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer. Because survival rates are high for younger patients, researchers wanted to determine how quality of life in the months and years after treatment was affected.
“Cancer treatment can be taxing on patients and their families, but our hope is that those stresses would not interfere with life after therapy is complete,” noted Lee.
Relationships & Family
Contrary to prior studies, researchers found that reproductive health concerns, such as infertility after treatment, did not affect the quality of life in younger cancer survivors.
“Infertility or premature ovarian failure can be a side effect of breast cancer treatment,” said Lee. “Our results suggested that quality of life was not affected by the possibility of not having additional children after their treatment.”
Researchers also noted that patients who were married had a higher quality of life. Treatment and the recovery did not significantly impact patient-reported appearance, sexuality or their relationship with their loved one.
Treatment options varied for those included in this survey. However, the results showed there was less disruption in quality of life for younger cancer patients treated with a combination of lumpectomy and radiation. Chemotherapy did not appear to have lasting effects on quality of life, according to survey participants.
Researchers did note that women who had a mastectomy said the surgery had significant effect on their sexuality and appearance compared to those who had a lumpectomy.
“Our hope is that physicians and surgeons will take these findings into consideration when discussing treatment options and the impact on quality of life with their patients,” Lee said.
The study appears online in The American Journal of Surgery. Results were based on a 63-question survey of 300 patients diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer prior to age 50 and completed treatment at Moffitt at least six months prior to the study.
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 1 cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.