Open Access

Health-related quality of life in breast cancer patients: A bibliographic review of the literature from 1974 to 2007

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research200827:32

DOI: 10.1186/1756-9966-27-32

Received: 08 August 2008

Accepted: 29 August 2008

Published: 29 August 2008

Abstract

Background

Quality of life in patients with breast cancer is an important outcome. This paper presents an extensive overview on the topic ranging from descriptive findings to clinical trials.

Methods

This was a bibliographic review of the literature covering all full publications that appeared in English language biomedical journals between 1974 and 2007. The search strategy included a combination of key words 'quality of life' and 'breast cancer' or 'breast carcinoma' in titles. A total of 971 citations were identified and after exclusion of duplicates, the abstracts of 606 citations were reviewed. Of these, meetings abstracts, editorials, brief commentaries, letters, errata and dissertation abstracts and papers that appeared online and were indexed ahead of publication were also excluded. The remaining 477 papers were examined. The major findings are summarized and presented under several headings: instruments used, validation studies, measurement issues, surgical treatment, systemic therapies, quality of life as predictor of survival, psychological distress, supportive care, symptoms and sexual functioning.

Results

Instruments-Several valid instruments were used to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Core Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and its breast cancer specific complementary measure (EORTC QLQ-BR23) and the Functional Assessment Chronic Illness Therapy General questionnaire (FACIT-G) and its breast cancer module (FACIT-B) were found to be the most common and well developed instruments to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients. Surgery-different surgical procedures led to relatively similar results in terms of quality of life assessments, although mastectomy patients compared to conserving surgery patients usually reported a lower body image and sexual functioning. Systemic therapies-almost all studies indicated that breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy might experience several side-effects and symptoms that negatively affect their quality of life. Adjuvant hormonal therapies also were found to have similar negative impact on quality of life, although in general they were associated with improved survival. Quality of life as predictor of survival-similar to known medical factors, quality of life data in metastatic breast cancer patients was found to be prognostic and predictive of survival time. Psychological distress-anxiety and depression were found to be common among breast cancer patients even years after the disease diagnosis and treatment. Psychological factors also were found to predict subsequent quality of life or even overall survival in breast cancer patients. Supportive care-clinical treatments to control emesis, or interventions such as counseling, providing social support and exercise could improve quality of life. Symptoms-Pain, fatigue, arm morbidity and postmenopausal symptoms were among the most common symptoms reported by breast cancer patients. As recommended, recognition and management of these symptoms is an important issue since such symptoms impair health-related quality of life. Sexual functioning-breast cancer patients especially younger patients suffer from poor sexual functioning that negatively affect quality of life.

Conclusion

There was quite an extensive body of the literature on quality of life in breast cancer patients. These papers have made a considerable contribution to improving breast cancer care, although their exact benefit was hard to define. However, quality of life data provided scientific evidence for clinical decision-making and conveyed helpful information concerning breast cancer patients' experiences during the course of the disease diagnosis, treatment, disease-free survival time, and recurrences; otherwise finding patient-centered solutions for evidence-based selection of optimal treatments, psychosocial interventions, patient-physician communications, allocation of resources, and indicating research priorities were impossible. It seems that more qualitative research is needed for a better understanding of the topic. In addition, issues related to the disease, its treatment side effects and symptoms, and sexual functioning should receive more attention when studying quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Background

Health-related quality of life is now considered an important endpoint in cancer clinical trials. It has been shown that assessing quality of life in cancer patients could contribute to improved treatment and could even be as prognostic as medical factors could be prognostic [14]. Above all, studies of quality of life can further indicate the directions needed for more efficient treatment of cancer patients. Among the quality of life studies in cancer patients, breast cancer has received most attention for several reasons. First, the number of women with breast cancer is increasing. It has been reported that each year over 1.1 million women worldwide are diagnosed with breast cancer and 410,000 die from the disease [5]. Secondly, early detection and treatment of breast cancer have improved and survivors now live longer, so studying quality of life in this context is important. Thirdly, breast cancer affects women's identities and therefore studying quality of life for those who lose their breasts is vital. In addition, it is believed that females play important roles as partners, wives, and mothers within any family. Thus, when a woman develops breast cancer, all members of family might develop some sort of illnesses. In fact, breast cancer is a family disease. Other reasons could be added, but overall it is crucial to recognize that with increasing improvements in medicine and medical practice during recent years studying quality of life for any cancer, for any anatomical site and for either gender is considered highly relevant. A descriptive study of the published papers (230 articles) on non-biomedical outcomes (quality of life, preferences, satisfaction and economics) in breast cancer patients, covering the literature from 1990 to 2000, found that the most frequently reported outcomes were health-related quality of life (54%), followed by economic analyses (38%), and patient satisfaction (14%). Only 9% measured patient preferences [6].

Over the past 10 years, much clinical effort has been expended in the treatment of breast cancer in order to improve survival. Now the question is: to what extent have studies of quality of life in breast cancer patients added to our information or contributed to improved outcomes in breast cancer care? This is very difficult to answer, but it is possible to try to investigate the contribution of quality of life studies to breast cancer care as a whole. There are several useful review papers on quality of life in breast cancer patients. However, most published papers have either been overviews or systematic literature searches with very focused objectives. The aim of this review is to collect and examine all literature published since the topic first appeared in English language biomedical journals. It is hoped that this extensive review may contribute to existing knowledge, help both researchers and clinicians to have a better profile on the topic, and consequently aid in improving quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Methods

As part of a study on quality of life in breast cancer patients, an extensive literature search was carried out using MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Science Citation Index (ISI), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the PsycINFO, the Allied and Complementary Medicine (AMED), and Global Health databases. The intention was to review all full publications that have been appeared in English language biomedical journals between 1974 and 2007. The year 1974 was chosen because the first study on quality of life in breast cancer patients was published then. The search strategy included the combination of key words 'quality of life' and 'breast cancer' or 'breast carcinoma' in titles of publications. It was though that this might help to focus the investigation. It provided the initial database for the review. The initial search was carried out in early 2006 and updated twice in 2006, twice at the end of January and December 2007, and once for a final check in April 2008.

Results

Statistics

A total of 971 citations were identified and after exclusion of duplicates, the abstracts of 606 citations were reviewed. Of these, meetings abstracts, editorials, brief commentaries, letters, errata and dissertation abstracts and papers that appeared online and were indexed ahead of publication were also excluded. The remaining 477 papers were examined in this bibliographic review. The statistics are shown in Table 1 and a chronological list of all papers is available [Additional file 1]. Here, the major findings are summarized and presented under the following headings.
Table 1

Number of citations by year of publication (1974–2007)

Year

Breast cancer

Quality of life

BC+QOL*

Papers reviewed**

1974

246

13

1

1

1975

312

23

0

0

1976

358

34

1

1

1977

522

27

0

0

1978

527

33

0

0

1979

489

34

0

0

1980

662

36

1

1

1981

634

45

1

0

1982

647

71

1

1

1983

661

89

2

2

1984

830

73

0

0

1985

844

97

2

2

1986

920

134

1

1

1987

961

211

2

2

1988

1125

223

2

2

1989

1333

294

2

2

1990

1470

422

7

6

1991

1423

394

8

7

1992

1805

603

8

8

1993

2088

641

18

17

1994

2342

747

16

15

1995

2444

948

11

10

1996

2926

1422

16

15

1997

3249

1756

19

16

1998

3597

2049

29

25

1999

3872

2457

39

30

2000

5026

2639

37

30

2001

5206

2985

34

27

2002

5720

3233

42

26

2003

6441

3900

38

31

2004

7422

4811

74

47

2005

7862

5276

73

53

2006

7021

4592

63

48

2007

4641

2207

58

51

Total

85626

42519

606

477

* Excluding duplicates and papers that appeared online and indexed ahead of publication.

** Excluding all meetings abstracts, editorials, brief commentaries, letters, replies, erratum, and dissertation abstracts. For all citations see Additional file 1.

Reviews

There were several review papers. These were divided into two categories: overviews [726], and systematic reviews [2735]. Whilst there were quite significant numbers of commentaries, some brief, a few systematic reviews with focused objectives were also identified. These are summarized in Tables 2 and 3. Both overviews and systematic reviews touched interesting topics pointed to helpful comments and findings among published papers. For instance, a paper by Rozenberg et al. [26] highlighted that most women affected by breast cancer will not die from it but from other diseases, owing to recent improvements in treatment. They also pointed out that women with breast cancer and three or more co-morbid conditions have a 20-fold higher rate of mortality from causes other than breast cancer and a 4-fold higher rate of all-cause mortality when compared with patients who have none.
Table 2

A list of some overview papers on quality of life in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author(s) [Ref.]

Year

Main focus

Conclusion(s)

McEvoy and McCorkle [7]

1990

QOL in advanced breast cancer

Efforts to manage advanced breast cancer must include both current medical therapies and attention to the critical factors associated with enhancing their QOL.

Kiebert et al. [8]

1991

Impact of breast conserving surgery vs. mastectomy on QOL

There were no substantial differences between the two treatment modalities except for body image and sexual functioning in favor of breast conserving surgery.

Aarenson [9]

1993

Assessments of QOL and benefits from adjuvant therapies

Adjuvant therapies could improve QOL in breast cancer patients.

Bryson and Plosker [10]

1993

Tamoxifen as adjuvant therapy

Tamoxifen has a low cost-utility ratio in postmenopausal women with node-positive, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

Stefanek [11]

1994

QOL research, provider-patient communication, and psychological distress of spouses and other relatives of breast cancer patients

This review summarizes and critiques publications in three identified areas.

Ganz [12]

1994

Review of various approaches to the measurement of QOL, the important QOL issues in the treatment of breast cancer, and what is known about QOL of older women with breast cancer

Ongoing and future research using newer approaches to QOL assessment should provide additional information on this important topic.

Osoba [13]

1994

QOL as a treatment endpoint

Advances in understanding HRQOL in metastatic breast cancer will aid the development of rational treatment policies.

Carlson [14]

1998

QOL in metastatic breast cancer

Clinician must balance anti-tumor activity, performance status, and the usual toxicity measures as surrogates for QOL associated with each specific therapy.

Leedham and Ganz [15]

1999

Psychological concerns and mental health

Psychological concerns and mental health are important issues for breast cancer patients and should be recognized and treated when necessary.

Rustoen and Begnum [16]

2000

Nursing practice

Nurses play an important role in meeting the needs of breast cancer patients.

Shapiro et al. [17]

2001

Relationship between psychosocial variables and QOL

A broader, more integrative framework that includes psychosocial factors is needed to evaluate breast cancer consequences.

Partridge et al. [18]

2001

QOL before, during and after high-dose chemotherapy

Resulting transient impaired overall QOL with subsequent improvement over time.

Kurtz and Dufour [19]

2002

QOL in older patients with metastatic disease receiving either standard treatment or new drugs

Aromatase inhibitors (such as taxanes and orally administered chemotherapy) provide similar or a better QOL as compared to first line endocrine therapy with tamoxifen.

Costantino [20]

2002

Hormonal treatments in metastatic breast cancer patients

QOL data is useful for both clinicians and patients in evaluating treatment options and developing treatment strategies.

Fallowfield [21]

2004

Hormonal therapies

Tolerability profiles of available treatment options are highlighted.

Sammarco [22]

2004

QOL of older breast cancer patients

Outpatient and long-term care should become a key setting for implementation of QOL interventions for women with breast cancer.

Knobf [23]

2006

Endocrine effects of adjuvant therapy in younger survivors

Causes premature menopause that is associated with poorer QOL, decreased sexual functioning, menopausal symptom distress, psychosocial distress related to infertility, and infertility.

Kayl and Meyers [24]

2006

Side effects of chemotherapy

QOL issues may help to guide patient-care decision.

Diel [25]

2007

Effectiveness of bisphosphonates on bone pain and quality of life in breast cancer patients with metastatic bone disease

Clinical trial data demonstrate that bisphosphonates offer significant and sustained relief from bone pain and can also improve quality of life in patients with metastatic breast cancer. New treatment schedules using high dose bisphosphonates can offer rapid relief of acute, and severe bone pain.

Rozenberg et al. [26]

2007

Co-morbid conditions and breast cancer

Women with breast cancer and three or more co-morbid conditions have a 20-fold higher rate of mortality from causes other than breast cancer and a 4-fold higher rate of all-cause mortality when compared with patients who have none.

Table 3

A list of systematic reviews on different aspects of quality of life in breast cancer patients (1974–2006)

Author(s) [Ref.]

Year

Main focus

Conclusion(s)

Irwig and Bennetts [27]

1997

A systematic review of quality of life after breast conservation or mastectomy

Apart body image it is unclear whether breast conservation or mastectomy results in better psychosocial outcomes.

Bottomley and Therasse [28]

2002

Systemic therapy (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or biological therapy) in advanced breast cancer (1995–2001)

QOL data provide invaluable insights into the treatment and care of patients.

Shimozuma et al. [29]

2002

Systematic overview of the literature (1982–1999)

To date there have been almost no appropriate systematic overviews or guidelines issued for QOL assessment studies related to breast cancer.

Goodwin et al. [30]

2003

Randomized clinical trials of treatment (review of literature from 1980–2001)

Until results of ongoing trials in breast cancer are available, caution is recommended in initiating new QOL studies unless treatment equivalency is expected or unless unique or specific issues can be addressed.

Rietman et al. [31]

2003

Late morbidity of breast cancer (review of literature from 1980 to 2000)

Significant relationship between late morbidity and restrictions of daily activities and poorer QOL was reported.

Payne et al. [32]

2003

Racial disparities in the palliative care for African-American (review of literature from 1985 to 2000)

Differences in treatment patterns, pain management, and hospice care exist between African-American and other ethnic groups.

Fossati [33]

2004

Randomized clinical trials of cytotoxic or hormonal treatments in advanced breast cancer (review of published literature before Dec 2003

QOL assessments added relatively little value to classical clinical endpoints.

Mols et al. [34]

2005

Systematic review among long-term survivors

Focusing on the long-term effects of breast cancer is important when evaluating the full extent of cancer treatment.

Grimison and Stockler [35]

2007

Adjuvant systemic therapy for early-stage breast cancer (review of literature from 1996 to Feb. 2007)

For the majority of breast cancer patients most aspects of health-related quality of life recover after adjuvant chemotherapy ends without long-term effects except vasomotor symptoms and sexual dysfunction.

Health-related quality of life in patients undergoing systemic therapy for advanced breast cancer was reviewed by Bottomley and Therasse, covering the literature from 1995 to 2001. They indicated that there were 19 studies. Among these, there were 12 studies on chemotherapy, 6 hormonal trials and 1 on biological therapy (Trastuzumab). They concluded that quality of life data provided invaluable insights into the treatment and care of patients [28].

To help the selection of optimal treatment, Goodwin et al. conducted a review of measurements of health-related quality of life in randomized clinical trials in breast cancer patients, covering the literature from 1980 to 2000. They identified a total of 256 randomized trials in breast cancer that included health-related quality of life or psychosocial outcomes. Of these, 66 trials involved randomized of different treatment options, 46 evaluated biomedical interventions and 20 evaluated psychosocial interventions. They concluded that until the results of ongoing trials are available, caution is recommended in initiating new quality of life studies unless treatment equivalence is expected or unless unique or specific issues can be addressed [30]. Similarly, Fossati's critical review of published literature on randomized clinical trials of cytotoxic or hormonal treatments of advanced breast cancer indicated that quality of life assessments added relatively little value to classical clinical endpoints [33].

Mols et al. reviewed the literature on quality of life among long-term survivors of breast cancer and found that although these patients experienced some specific problems such as a thick and painful arm and problems with sexual functioning, most reported good overall quality of life. The review also indicated that the current medical condition, amount of social support and current income level were strong positive predictors of quality of life, and the use of adjuvant chemotherapy emerged as a negative predictor. The authors concluded that focusing on the long-term effects of breast cancer is important when evaluating the full extent of treatment [34].

Grimison and Stockler reviewed quality of life in early-stage breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant systemic therapy, review of clinical randomized trials covering the literature from 1996 to 2007, and concluded that the long-term effects of chemotherapy-induced menopause and hormonal therapy on quality of life were poorly recognized. They found that vasomotor symptoms and altered sexual function were common, distressing and inadequately treated [35].

Two historical papers

The first paper on quality of life in breast cancer patients was published in 1974. In this historical paper advanced breast cancer patients receiving adrenalectomy with chemotherapy were assessed for objective and subjective response rates, survival and quality of life. The results showed that in 64% of the patients the subjective palliation involved a return to essentially normal living during the period of improvement [36]. The second historical paper on the topic was appeared two years later, in 1976; Priestman and Baum used a linear analogue self-assessment (LASA) to measure the subjective effects of treatment in women with advanced breast cancer [37]. The results showed that this technique might be used to monitor the subjective benefit of treatment and to compare the subjective toxicities of different therapeutic regimens. The results also suggested that the subjective toxicity of cytotoxic therapy was not related to the patient's age and diminished with successive courses of drugs. However, not until the late 1980s and early 1990s was the literature gradually supplemented with papers using relatively standard and established instruments to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Instruments used

Broadly, quality of life measures can be classified as: general, disease specific, and site-specific. Although the early studies did not use standard measures, several valid instruments for measuring quality of life in breast cancer patients have been developed in recent years. The most commonly-used instruments were: the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Questionnaire and its Breast Cancer supplement (EORTC QLQ-C30 and QLQ-BR23); the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy General Questionnaire and its Breast Cancer Supplement (FACIT-G and FACIT-B formerly FACT questionnaires); the Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Questionnaire (BCQ); the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS); and the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Survey (SF-36). Table 4 lists a number of most important instruments used in studies of quality of life in breast cancer patients. Almost all these instruments proved to be valid and were found to be very popular among researchers and clinicians.
Table 4

A list of instruments used to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Types of measures

Measures full name

Abbreviation

General measures

  
 

Short Form Health Survey

SF-36

 

Spitzer Quality of Life Index

QLI

 

Sickness Impact Profile

SIP

 

Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index

QLI

Cancer specific measures

  
 

European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Core quality of Life questionnaire

EORTC QLQ-C30

 

Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy General Questionnaire

FACIT-G (formerly FACT)

 

Functional Living Index-Cancer

FLI-C

 

Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index-Cancer

QLI-C

Breast cancer specific measures

  
 

European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Breast Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire

EORTC QLQ-BR23

 

Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Breast

FCIT-B

 

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Questionnaire

BCQ

 

The Satisfaction with Life Domains Scale for Breast Cancer

SLDS-BC

Psychological measures

  
 

General Health Questionnaire-28

GHQ-28

 

Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale

HADS

 

Beck Depression Inventory

BDI

 

Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale

CES-D

 

State-Trait Anxiety Inventory

STAI

 

Profile Mood State

PMS

 

Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale

MACS

 

Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale

PAIS

Symptom measures

  
 

Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue

FACIT-F

 

Piper Fatigue Scale

PFS

 

Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory

MFI

 

Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-B plus Arm Morbidity Subscale

FACIT-B + 4

 

Hot Flash Related Interference Scale

HFRDIS

 

Shoulder Disability Questionnaire

SDQ

 

Brief Pain Inventory

BPI

 

McGill Pain Questionnaire

MPQ

 

Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale

MSAS

 

Rotterdam Symptom Checklist

RSC

Other measures

  
 

Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual

FACIT-SP

 

Body Image Scale

BIS

 

Body Image After Breast Cancer Questionnaire

BIBCQ

 

Watts Sexual Functioning Questionnaire

WSFQ

 

Social Support Questionnaire

SSQ

 

Life Satisfaction Questionnaire

LSQ

 

Satisfaction With Life Scale

SWLS

Validation studies

Development of instruments for measuring quality of life in breast cancer patients, or cultural adaptation and validation studies of the existing instruments, was the major theme in a number of papers. These are presented in Table 5[3859]. A paper by Levine et al. in 1988 was the first validation study in this field. It reported a quality of life measure in breast cancer patients called the Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Questionnaire (BCQ). This is a 30-item questionnaire that focuses on loss of attractiveness, fatigue, physical symptoms, inconvenience, emotional distress and feelings of hope and support from others [35]. A few studies reported translation and validation findings for the instruments used to assess quality of life among breast cancer patients in different cultures (for example see [48, 54, 56]).
Table 5

A summary of validation studies of quality of life instruments in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author(s) [Ref.]

Year

Instrument

Main focus

Levine et al. [38]

1988

The Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Questionnaire (BCQ)

Development an outcome measure in clinical trials of adjuvant chemotherapy

Ciampi et al. [39]

1988

A 27 item Linear Analog Self Assessment

Factor analysis indicating disease and treatment-related, physical, emotional and social health summary scores

Tamburini et al. [40]

1991

Two simple index

To assess the impact of therapy on QOL in patients receiving chemotherapy for operable breast cancer

Osoba et al. [41]

1994

The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Core Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30)

Evaluation of psychometric properties and responsiveness

Carlsson and Hamrin [42]

1996

The Life Satisfaction Questionnaire (LSQ-32)

Development a tool to measure life satisfaction in breast cancer patients

Sprangers et al. [43]

1996

The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Breast Cancer Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-BR23)

Development of a breast cancer specific QOL measure

Brady et al. [44]

1997

The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Breast Cancer Specific Questionnaire (FACT-B)

Development of a breast cancer specific QOL measure

de Haes and Olschewski [45]

1998

The Rotterdam Symptom Checklist (RSC)

Cross cultural validation

McLachlan et al. [46]

1998

The EORTC QLQ-C30

Validation as a measure of psychological function

Fallowfiled et al [47]

1999

An endocrine symptom subscale for the FACT-B (FACT-B plus ES)

Validation in women undergoing hormonal therapy for breast cancer

Montazeri et al. [48]

2000

The EORTC QLQ-BR23

Validation of the Iranian version

Mihailova et al. [49]

2001

The EORTC QLQ-C30 and the QLQ-BR23

Validation of the Bulgarian version

Coster et al. [50]

2001

The Impact of Arm Morbidity (FACT-B+4)

Development a QOL scale to assess the impact of arm morbidity post-operatively

Carpenter [51]

2001

The Hot Flash Related Daily Interference Scale

Development of a tool for measuring the impact of hot flashes on QOL

Pandey et al. [52]

2002

The FACT Breast Cancer Specific Questionnaire (FACT-B)

Validation of the Malayalam version

Chie et al. [53]

2003

The EORTC QLQ-C30 and the EORTC QLQ-BR23

Validation of the Taiwan Chinese version

Lee et al. [54]

2004

The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G)

Validation of the Korean version

Yun et al. [55]

2004

The EORTC QLQ-BR23

Cross-cultural application in Korea

Parmar et al. [56]

2005

The EORTC QLQ-C30

Validation of the Indian version

Avis and Foley [57]

2006

The Quality of life in Adult Cancer Survivors (QLACS)

Evaluation in long term breast cancer survivors

Wan et al. [58]

2007

The FACT-B

Validation of the simplified Chinese version

Wan et al. [59]

2007

The EORTC QLQ-BR53

Psychometric properties of the simplified Chinese version

Measurement issues

Papers that dealt with issues of quality of life measurement in breast cancer patients encompassed a variety of topics, mainly focusing on methodological and practical concerns in such assessment, especially in clinical settings. Most authors have tried first to convince clinicians to assess quality of life, and secondly to show how quality of life data could contribute to care and management of breast cancer patients. Table 6 presents a summary of the results [6084].
Table 6

A list of quality of life studies that covered measurement issues in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author(s) [Ref.]

Year

Main focus

Conclusion(s)/Recommendation

Baum et al. [60]

1990

The issue of measuring QOL in advanced breast cancer

Efforts are being made to find out ways to measure QOL in advanced breast cancer patients.

Sutherland et al. [61]

1990

Ratings of the importance of QOL variables

Breast cancer patients give different weights to different QOL variables.

Gelber et al. [62]

1992

Explaining about the QOL adjusted Time Without Symptom and Toxicity

Integration of two methods (QOL and symptom free duration) could provide a new tool.

Ganz et al. [63]

1992

The influence of multiple variables on the relationship of age to QOL

The casement plot methodology should be employed for simultaneous evaluation of multiple variables.

Gelber et al. [64]

1993

Description of survival estimates with applications to QOL evaluation (Quality adjusted Time Without Symptoms of disease and Toxicity of treatment)

Estimation showed that patients continued to benefit greatly from long-term-duration chemotherapy between 5 and 10 years following treatment.

Hyden et al. [65]

1993

Pitfalls in collecting QOL data

Several recommendations were made: (a) build support for QOL assessment among the group's leadership, (b) involve physicians and oncology nurses in the study design, (c) identify a QOL liaison at each participating institution, and (d) aggressively monitor the quality and timeliness of data submission.

Fallowfield [66]

1993

Measurement issues

Some recommendations for selecting well validated measures.

Gerard et al. [67]

1993

Framing and labeling effects in measuring quality adjusted life years

A significant difference was found in the particular values of descriptions that were written in the third person that differed in terms of whether the word "cancer" was used.

Hurny et al. [68]

1994

Timing of baseline QOL assessment

Timing is an important consideration in QOL assessment.

Fallowfield [69]

1995

Discussion on some instruments used to measure QOL

Monitoring QOL in breast cancer should be a mandatory part of follow-up in clinical trials.

Hietanen [70]

1996

Measurement and practical aspects of QOL assessment

Main factors affecting QOL in the treatment of breast cancer.

Bernhard et al. [71]

1997

The International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG) approach

Confirmation of the feasibility, validity and clinical relevance of quality of life assessment.

Bernhard et al. [72]

1998

Factors affecting baseline QOL assessment

Cultural and biomedical factors are influencing baseline QOL data and should be considered when evaluating the impact of treatment.

Bernhard et al. [73]

1998

Practical issues and factors associated with missing data

The factors most highly associated with missing data were institution and chemotherapy compliance.

Ganz et al. [74]

1998

Compliance with QOL data collection

Educational level of a trial participants might contribute to it compliance.

Coates and Gebski [75]

1998

Approaches to missing data

Missing data cannot be assumed to be similar to those available. Optimal assessment requires careful prospective attention to complete data collection.

Jansen et al. [76]

2000

Response shift

Significant recalibration effects were observed.

Curran et al. [77]

2000

Summary measures and statistics

Different techniques in analysis might result in different conclusions.

Perez et al. [78]

2001

The application of a time trade-off utility measure

The utility measure and a QOL measure showed fair to moderate concordance.

Nagel et al. [79]

2001

A cluster analytic approach to analyze quality of life data

QOL scores could identify clinically meaningful subgroups of patients.

Mosconi et al. [80]

2001

A general introduction to the debate on the methodological issues involved in QOL evaluation

Open questions regarding the use of QOL measures in surgical, adjuvant therapy and metastatic studies.

Efficace et al. [81]

2002

Evaluating reliability, validity and cultural relevance of QOL measures in clinical trials

Suggestions for selecting future measures for use in breast cancer population of patients.

Wilson et al. [82]

2005

Comparing two QOL measures (the Rand 36-item and the Functional Living Index-Cancer)

Neither questionnaire can be replaced by each other in studies of QOL in breast cancer patients.

Carver et al. [83]

2006

Assessment of demographic, medical and psychological variables on outcome

Different aspects of QOL at long-term follow-up had different antecedents.

Perry et al. [84]

2007

Benefits, acceptability and utilization of QOL assessment in women with breast cancer

Summarized the benefits, challenges, and barriers of QOL measurement for female breast cancer patients.

Surgical treatment

Breast cancer surgery including conservative surgery followed by irradiation, and modified radical mastectomy or radical mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction is associated with different side-effects including pain, and fatigue and thus affecting quality of life in breast cancer patients. A list of studies on surgery and quality of life in breast cancer patients is given in Table 7[85113]
Table 7

A list of studies of surgical treatment and quality o life in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author (s) [Ref.]

Year

Treatment (assessment time)

Conclusion(s)

de Haes et al. [85]

1985

MAS vs. tumorectomy (11 months after surgery)

No differences expect worse body image in MAS patients.

de Haes et al. [86]

1986

MAS vs. tumorectomy (11 and 18 months after surgery)

Overall QOL improved over time in both groups; poor body image in MAS.

Ganz et al. [87]

1992

MAS vs. BCS after one year

No significant differences in QOL and both groups improved; BCS patients did not experience significantly better QOL but had fewer problems with clothing and body image.

Shimozuma et al. [88]

1994

Surgery-any

Hospitalization had a strong negative relation to overall QOL; type of surgery had no significant association with QOL.

Neises et al. [89]

1994

MAS or BCS

Older women suffer as much as younger patients after MAS.

Fallowfield [90]

1994

Surgery and tamoxifen vs. tamoxifen alone

At 2 years similar psychological health; no evidence of impaired QOL for elderly women after surgery

Shimozuma et al. [91]

1995

MRM or BCS (before surgery and 3 times up 2 years after)

No significant differences in overall QOL; patients with BCS need more psychological support.

Hart et al. [92]

1997

MAS + prostheses or MAS + reconstruction or MAS alone

No one technique is necessary for all women to optimize QOL; women should choose and make their own decisions.

Dorval et al. [93]

1998

Partial or total MAS (3 and 18 months after)

Both appeared to be equivalent in long-term QOL. Younger women might benefit more from partial MAS.

Curran et al. [94]

1998

MRM vs. BCS

Significant benefit in body image and satisfaction in BCS group; no difference in fear of recurrence.

Wapnir et al. [95]

1999

Lumpectomy with axillary dissection (LAD) or mastectomy

No major differences except for dressing, comfort with nudity and sexual drive in favor of ALD.

Shimozuma et al. [96]

1999

MRM or BCS (1 year after)

At one year good QOL, with no relationship to the type of surgery.

Pusic et al. [97]

1999

Lumpectomy + irradiation or MAS + reconstruction or MAS alone

Postoperative QOL varied with age; for age less than 55 QOL was lowest for MAS, over 55 was lowest for lumpectomy.

Amichetti et al. [98]

1999

BCS + irradiation in non-infiltrating breast cancer

Good QOL and body image and lack of negative impact on sexuality.

King et al. [99]

2000

MAS or BCS (3 months and 1 year after)

Most symptoms declined over time but arm and menopausal symptoms persisted; worse QOL in younger patients.

Kenny et al. [100]

2000

MAS or BCS + irradiation (1 year after)

Better body image and physical function in BCS; more impact on younger women regardless of treatment type.

Nissen et al. [101]

2001

MAS or MAS + reconstruction or BCS (6 times assessment up to 2 years after)

QOL other than body image were not better in BCS or MAS + reconstruction than in who had MAS alone; MAS + reconstruction was associated with greater mood disturbance and poorer QOL.

Janni et al. [102]

2001

MAS or BCS (median 46 months follow-up)

Surgical modalities had no long-term impact on overall QOL, but certain body image related problems in MAS was observed.

Girotto et al. [103]

2003

MAS + reconstruction in older women

Improved QOL in older patients especially improved mental health.

Cocquyt et al. [104]

2003

Skin-sparing MAS or BCS

Both yielded comparable QOL, but cosmetic outcome was better after skin-sparing MAS.

Engel et al [105]

2004

MAS or BCS (5 years follow-up)

MAS patients had lower body image, role and sexual functioning; BCS should be encouraged in all ages.

Ganz et al. [106]

2004

Lumpectomy + chemotherapy or MAS + chemotherapy or Lumpectomy alone or MAS alone in non-metastatic breast cancer patients

At the end of primary treatment all treatment groups reported good emotional functioning but decreased physical health especially among women who had MAS or received chemotherapy.

Dubernard et al. [107]

2004

SLNB

Axillary procedure affected only QOL related to arm morbidity.

Elder et al. [108]

2005

MAS + immediate breast reconstruction (before and 12 months after)

After 12 months good QOL comparable with aged-matched women from the general population.

Barranger et al. [109]

2005

SLNB vs. ALND in breast-sparing treatment

SLNB was associated with significantly lower mid term morbidity.

Fleissig [110]

2006

SLNB vs. ALND

Regarding arm functioning and QOL the use of SNB was recommended in patients with node negative breast cancer.

Pandey et al. [111]

2006

MAS or BCS

No significant change in overall QOL after surgery; poorer QOL in MAS patients.

Rietman et al. [112]

2006

SLNB or ALND (before and after 2 years)

Less treatment related upper limb morbidity, perceived disability in activities of daily life and worsening of QOL after SNLB compared with ALND.

Parker et al. [113]

2007

MAS or MAS+ reconstruction or BCS (short- and long-term effects on aspects of psychosocial adjustment and QOL

Overall, the general patterns of psychosocial adjustment and QOL were similar among the three surgery groups.

Abbreviations

MRM: modified radical mastectomy, MAS: mastectomy, BCS: breast conservation surgery, SNLB: sentinel lymph node biopsy, ALND: axillary lymph node dissection

The most important topic in studies of breast cancer surgery and quality of life relates to the type of surgery. Recent findings suggest that partial and total mastectomy appear to be equivalent treatments in terms of patients' long-term quality of life. However, both short-term and long-term distress levels after partial and total mastectomy may depend on patient's age at diagnosis [93]. A study of early breast cancer patients one year after mastectomy or conservative surgery and radiation therapy found that the differences between treatment groups were mainly accounted for by adjuvant therapies. Those treated by breast conservation reported better body image but worse physical functions. The negative impact of breast cancer and its treatment was greater for younger women across a number of dimensions of quality of life measures regardless of treatment type [100].

In addition, one study found that aspects of quality of life other than body image were no better in women who underwent breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy with reconstruction than in women who had mastectomy alone. Furthermore, mastectomy with reconstruction was associated with greater mood disturbance and poorer health [101]. However, the results of a 5-year prospective study on quality of life following breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy indicated that mastectomy patients had a significantly worse body image; role and sexual functioning, and their lives were more disrupted [105]. A recent Japanese study on the early effects of surgery in patients with breast cancer performing multivariate analysis reported that there were no significant differences in quality of life before and after surgery, but quality of life was significantly better among women undergoing breast conservation than those undergoing mastectomy [111]. A study comparing the short- and long-term effects of mastectomy with reconstruction, mastectomy without reconstruction, and breast conservation therapy on aspects of psychosocial adjustment and quality of life in a sample of 258 women with breast cancer concluded that overall, the general patterns of psychosocial adjustment and quality of life were similar among the three surgery groups. In addition the study results showed that during the long-term follow-up period (6 months to 2 years after surgery), women in all three groups experienced marked improvements in psychosocial adjustment (depressive symptoms, satisfaction with chest appearance, sexual functioning) and quality of life in physical and mental health domains [113].

Systemic therapies

In order to reduce the risk of recurrence and death, breast cancer patients usually receive systemic therapies (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological treatments) after surgery. Several studies evaluated quality of life in breast cancer patients receiving systemic therapies. A list of studies reporting on the topic is given in Table 8[36, 37, 114169].
Table 8

A list of studies on systemic therapies and quality of life in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author(s) [Ref.]

Year

Treatment/patients

Conclusion(s)

Moore et al. [36]

1974

Adrenalectomy + chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer

In most patients the subjective palliation involved a return to normal living.

Priestman and Baum [37]

1976

Chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer

Toxicity is not related to the patients' age and diminished with successive courses of drugs.

Palmer et al. [114]

1980

A single agent vs. five drug combination in node positive primary breast cancer

Better QOL in single agent group.

Coates et al. [115]

1987

Intermittent vs. continuous chemotherapy in metastatic breast cancer

Continuous chemotherapy was better; changes in the QOL were independent prognostic factor of survival.

Kiebert et al. [116]

1990

Peri-operative chemotherapy vs. no chemotherapy in early stage breast cancer

No differences 1 year after; patients considered chemotherapy most burdensome aspect of treatment.

Gelber et al. [117]

1991

Single cycle of combination chemotherapy vs. longer duration chemotherapy for pre-menopausal or chemo-endocrine therapy for postmenopausal women

Better QOL in longer duration chemotherapy or chemo-endocrine therapy.

Berglund et al. [118]

1991

Late effects of adjuvant chemotherapy vs. postoperative radiotherapy in pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer

Chemotherapy patients had higher overall QOL.

Richards et al. [119]

1992

A (weekly for 12 courses vs. every three weeks for 4 courses) in advanced breast cancer

Similar survival but higher psychological distress in the three weeks group.

Hurny et al. [120]

1992

CMF (6 cycles vs. 3 cycles) in operable breast cancer

QOL improved with increasing time from the study entry.

Campora et al. [121]

1992

Adjuvant chemotherapy vs. palliative chemotherapy in metastatic breast cancer

No significant difference between groups.

Fraser et al. [122]

1993

CMF vs. E in advanced breast cancer

Similar survival and no significant difference in overall global QOL.

Twelves et al. [123]

1994

Iododoxorubicin in advanced breast cancer

Little evidence of benefit in terms of physical symptom relief, level of activity, psychological symptoms or global QOL.

Bertsch and Donaldson. [124]

1995

Vinorelbine vs. melphalan

Vinorelbine was better in some aspects of QOL.

Swain et al. [125]

1996

AC + G-CSF in node positive breast cancer

Tolerable physical symptoms and emotional distress.

McQuellon et al. [126]

1996

High-dose chemotherapy + ABMT

No significant difference between pre- and post-treatment QOL.

Larsen et al. [127]

1996

High-dose chemotherapy + ASCT

Resulting in poor physical and emotional health.

Hurny et al. [128]

1996

6 cycles of CMF vs. 3 cycles CMF in node-positive operable breast cancer

Worse QOL during treatment but not after treatment completion.

Griffiths and Beaver [129]

1997

High-dose chemotherapy in advanced breast cancer

No significant deterioration in QOL.

Lindley et al. [130]

1998

Systemic adjuvant therapy

2–5 years after treatment good QOL. Small to modest gain was acceptable to women.

Ganz et al. [131]

1998

TAM or chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy + TAM, or no adjuvant therapy

No significant differences in global QOL among treatment groups; those who received chemotherapy had more sexual problems and those who received TAM had more vasomotor symptoms.

Bernhard et al. [132]

1999

Formestane vs. megestrol acetate in postmenopausal advanced breast cancer while on TAM

No significant difference in QOL; baseline QOL was strong predictive for QOL under treatment but not for time to treatment failure.

Fairclough et al. [133]

1999

CAF vs. dose intensive a 16-week multi-drug regimen

Negative impact of the dose intensive 16-week regimen was observed, although Q-TwiST analysis showed a small gain for this regimen.

Osoba and Burchmore [134]

1999

Trastuzumab (Hercptin) in metastatic breast cancer who may or may not have had prior chemotherapy

Trastuzumab was associated with an amelioration of the deleterious effects of chemotherapy alone; the drug was not associated with worsening of QOL.

McLachlan et al. [135]

1999

Chemotherapy in metastatic breast cancer

QOL maintained or improved; patients did not want to trade quantity for QOL.

Macquart-Moulin et al. [136]

2000

High-dose chemotherapy + G-CSF + ASCT in inflammatory breast cancer

QOL deterioration disappeared after treatment and returned to baseline after one year.

Riccardi et al. [137]

2000

Doubling E within FEC vs. FEC in metastatic breast cancer

No significant difference in response or improvement of baseline QOL.

Kramer et al. [138, 139]

2000

Paclitaxel vs. A in advanced breast cancer

QOL appeared to be prognostic for survival and response to treatment.

Joly et al. [140]

2000

CMF + irradiation vs. irradiation in pre-menopausal breast cancer

Similar QOL was observed.

Hakamies-Blomqvist et al. [141]

2000

T vs. sequential MF in metastatic breast cancer

Difference in QOL was minor favoring MF.

Broeckel et al. [142]

2000

Adjuvant chemotherapy treated breast cancer (after 3 to 36 months)

Younger age, unmarried status, time since diagnosis and chemotherapy completion related to greeter depressive symptoms.

Carlson et al. [143]

2001

High-dose chemotherapy + ASCT in metastatic breast cancer

Anxiety and depression continued to increase, loss of sexual interest, worrying and joint pain were reported.

Osoba et al. [144]

2002

Chemotherapy + Trastuzumab (Hercptin) vs. Chemotherapy alone in metastatic breast cancer

More improved global QOL with chemotherapy + Herceptin.

Modi et al. [145]

2002

Paclitaxel in metastatic breast cancer

QOL benefit in tumor response patients.

Heidemann et al [146].

2002

Mitoxantrone vs. FEC in metastatic breast cancer

No significant difference in survival or response but a QOL scores favored mitoxantrone.

Genre et al. [147]

2002

High-dose-intensity AC (21 vs. 14 days)

Shortening cycles had a high negative impact on QOL.

de Haes et al. [148]

2003

Goserelin vs. CMF in peri-and pre-menopausal node-positive early breast cancer

Better QOL in favor of goserelin.

Brandberg et al. [149]

2003

Tailored FEC vs. induction FEC followed with high-dose CTCb + peripheral SCT

No significant overall differences were found between groups.

Land et al. [150]

2004

CMF vs. AC in axillary node negative and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer

Overall QOL was equivalent between two groups.

Fallowfield et al. [151]

2004

ANA vs. TAM alone or in combination in postmenopausal early breast cancer

Similar overall QOL impact but some small differences in side effects profiles.

Bottomely et al. [152]

2004

AT vs. AC in metastatic breast cancer

No significant differences in QOL between two groups.

Bernhard et al. [153]

2004

TAM for 5 years or three prior cycles of CMF followed by 57 months TAM in estrogen receptor-negative and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer

At completion there were no differences by treatment groups.

Tong et al. [154]

2005

Capecitabine, idarubicin and cyclophosphamide (all-oral regimen, XIC) in metastatic breast cancer

No significant decease in global QOL scores.

Galalae et al. [155]

2005

Radiotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy vs. radiotherapy and hormonal therapy vs. radiotherapy alone after conserving surgery

Adjuvant chemotherapy lowered QOL vs. hormones or radiotherapy alone.

Elkin et al. [156]

2005

Ovarian suppression vs. chemotherapy in pre-menopausal hormone-responsive breast cancer

Assuming equal efficacy ovarian suppression was superior. Efficacy would have impact on treatment choice.

Conner-Spady et al. [157]

2005

High-dose chemotherapy + ABST in breast cancer with poor prognosis

Impaired QOL in short term but improved after 2 years.

Bottomley et al. [158]

2005

Dose-intensives chemotherapy (CE + filgrastim) vs. CEF in locally advanced breast cancer

Groups did not differ in progression free survival; lower QOL in intensified group at short term but no difference at long term.

Ahles et al. [159]

2005

Standard-dose systemic chemotherapy vs. local therapy only in long-term breast cancer survivors

Lower overall QOL in chemotherapy group.

Peppercorn et al. [160]

2005

High-dose chemotherapy + ABMT vs. intermediate-dose chemotherapy in patients with stage II and III breast cancer

Patients who received more intensive therapy experienced transient declines in QOL; by 12 months after, QOL was comparable between the 2 arms, regardless of therapy intensity, and many QOL areas were improved from baseline.

Semiglazov et al. [161]

2006

CMF + mistletoe lectin (PS76A2) vs. CMF + placebo

PS76A2 improved QOL during and after chemotherapy.

Martin et al. [162]

2006

FAC vs. TAC or TAC + G-CSF in node negative breast cancer

Lower QOL in patients treated with TAC. Addition of G-CSF improves QOL.

Hurria et al. [163]

2006

Anthracyclin-based chemotherapy or CMF in older women with breast cancer

QOL maintained in both group.

Fallowfield et al. [164]

2006

EXE vs. TAM after 2–3 years of TAM in postmenopausal primary breast cancer

Temporary decrease in overall QOL for EXE but no other differences.

Groenvold et al. [165]

2006

CMF vs. ovarian ablation

CMF had more negative impact on QOL.

Cella et al. [166]

2006

ANA vs. TAM alone or in combination in postmenopausal breast cancer

ANA and TAM had similar impact on QOL.

Liu et al. [167]

2006

DPPE + A vs. A in patients with advanced or metastatic breast cancer

Patients on A alone had fewer disease and treatment adverse events and better QOL.

Karamouzis et al. [168]

2007

Chemotherapy vs. supportive care in metastatic patients

QOL was better in patients receiving chemotherapy than those under supportive care.

Hopwood et al. [169]

2007

Adjuvant radiotherapy

QOL and mental health were favorable for most patients about to start radiotherapy but younger age and receiving chemotherapy were significant risk factors for poorer QOL.

Abbreviations

C: Cyclophosphamide, M: Methotrexate, F: 5-fluorouracil, A: Doxorubcin, E: Epirubcin, T: Docetaxel, TAM: Tamoxifen, ANA: Anastrozole, EXE: Exemestane, QOL: Quality of life, DPPE: Tesmilifene, Granulocyte colony stimulating factor: G-CSF, CTCb: Cyclophosphamide, thiotepa, and carboplatin

Chemotherapy has considerable effect on quality of life of breast cancer patients. In a study of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy in primary node positive breast cancer patients (one or more axillary node), women receiving a single agent or a multi-drug regimen indicated that the treatment was 'unbearable' [114] or in a study of patients with early breast cancer receiving preoperative chemotherapy almost all patients considered chemotherapy the most 'burdensome' aspect of the treatment [116].

The side-effects of chemotherapy on quality of life in breast cancer patients were the topic of many investigations. In these studies, investigators looked at the issue from different perspectives. For instance, using a decision-analytic approach to evaluate tradeoffs between efficacy and quality of life in the choice of three adjuvant treatments (chemotherapy, surgical ovarian suppression, and medical ovarian suppression) in pre-menopausal women with newly-diagnosed, hormone-responsive early breast cancer, Elkin et al. concluded that when different treatments have similar efficacy, there may be a subgroup of women for whom quality of life considerations dominate the choice. However, they stated that small differences in the relative efficacy of these therapies have a substantial impact on treatment choice [156].

To improve clinical outcomes an international randomized controlled trial compared dose-intensive chemotherapy with standard systemic chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced breast cancer and showed that a dose-intensive regimen only has a temporary effect on health-related quality of life, thus enabling more research on intensive treatment for patients with locally advanced breast cancer, as it might also offer a survival benefit [158].

However, recent studies focusing on adjuvant hormonal therapies (tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors such as anastrozole, letrozole, exemestane) and quality of life in postmenopausal early-stage breast cancer patients reported more encouraging results. Most studies found that overall quality of life was improved in patients receiving either anstrozole or tamoxifen but patients reported different side effects [151, 166]. A trial comparing tamoxifen with exemestane showed that quality of life did not change significantly in either groups, but there were improvements in endocrine-related symptoms [164].

In summary, as noted by Grimison and Stockler, for the majority of breast cancer patients most aspects of health-related quality of life recover after adjuvant chemotherapy ends without long-term effects except vasomotor symptoms and sexual dysfunction. However, tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors cause long-term effects due to vasomotor, gynecological and sexual problems [35].

Quality of life as predictor of survival

Until recently, only a few studies had reported a relationship between quality of life and survival in breast cancer patients [115]. A study using the Daily Diary Card to measure quality of life in advanced breast cancer showed that the instrument offered accurate prognostic data regarding subsequent response to treatment and survival duration [170]. Similarly, Seidman et al. evaluated quality of life in two phase II clinical trials of metastatic breast cancer and found that baseline scores of two validated quality of life instruments independently predicted the overall likelihood of tumour responses [171].

Studies have shown that baseline quality of life predicts survival in advanced breast cancer but not in early stage of disease [172]. Two recently published papers also confirmed that baseline quality of life is not a prognostic factor in non-metastatic breast cancer patients. One of these two studies, using Cox survival analysis, indicated that neither health-related quality of life nor psychological status at diagnosis or 1 year later was associated with medical outcome in women with early-stage breast cancer [173]. The other study with a sample of 448 locally advanced breast cancer patients, reported that baseline health-related quality of life parameters had no prognostic value in a non-metastatic breast cancer population [174]. However, other studies have demonstrated that some aspects of quality of life data including physical health [175], pain [139, 176], and loss of appetite [177] were significant prognostic factors for survival in women with advanced breast cancer. In addition, one study demonstrated that baseline physical aspects of quality of life and its changes were related to survival, but psychological and social aspects were not [178].

Psychological distress

Women with breast cancer might develop psychological distress including anxiety and depression during diagnosis and treatment and after treatment. The psychological impact of breast cancer has received considerable attention. Since this is a separate topic, the focus here is on psychological distress as it relates to quality of life studies in breast cancer patients. Table 9 summarizes the papers on the topic [179210].
Table 9

A list of studies on psychological distress and quality of life in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author (s) [Ref.]

Years

Main focus

Results/conclusion(s)

Ferrero et al. [179]

1994

Mental adjustment to cancer in newly-diagnosed non-mtastatic breast cancer(an xploratory study)

Strong association between mental adjustment to cancer and reported vague physical symptoms; fighting spirit and denial was associated with better QOL and helpless/hopeless and anxious preoccupation and fatalism were negatively correlated with well-being.

Ganz et al. [180]

1996

Psychosocial concerns 2 and 3 years after primary treatment

Problems associated with physical and recreational activities, body image, and sexual functions were observed, although many positive aspects from cancer experience were reported.

Maunsell et al. [181]

1996

Brief psychological intervention vs. Brief psychological intervention + psychological distress screening

Distress screening did not improve QOL. Minimal psychological intervention at initial treatment alone was recommended.

Andrykowski et al. [182]

1996

Psychological adjustment in women with breast cancer or benign breast problems

Breast cancer patients reported poorer physical health but greater positive psychosocial adaptation and improved life outlook, no difference in psychological distress between two groups.

Marchioro et al. [183]

1996

Evaluation of the impact of a psychological intervention vs. standard care in non-metastatic breast cancer patients

Cognitive psychotherapy and family counseling improved both depression and QOL indexes.

Weitzner et al. [184]

1997

QOL and mood in long-term breast cancer survivors

Psychological measures were found to be more robust predictors of QOL than the demographic variables; long-term survivors continue to experience significant depression and lower QOL.

Kissane et al. [185]

1998

Psychological morbidity in early-stage breast cancer

45% (135/303) had psychiatric disorder, 42% had depression, anxiety or both; QOL was substantially affected.

Bloom et al. [186]

1998

Intrusiveness of illness in young women with newly-diagnosed breast cancer

Intrusiveness of illness mediated the effect of disease and treatment factors on QOL; neither time post-diagnosis nor type of treatment affected the psychological component of QOL.

Longman et al. [187]

1999

Psychological adjustment over time

Over time depression burden and anxiety burden persist and each was negatively associated with overall and present QOL.

Cotton et al. [188]

1999

Relationship among spiritual well-being, QOL, and psychological adjustment

Spiritual well-being was correlated with both QOL and psychological adjustment, but relationship was found to be more complex and indirect than previously considered.

Ashing-Giwa [189]

1999

Psychological outcome in long-term survivors of breast cancer (focus on African-American)

Patients relied on spiritual faith and family support to cope; socio-cultural contexts of the women's lives need to be considered when studying QOL.

Lewis et al. [190]

2001

Cancer-related intrusive thoughts and social support

In women with social support cancer-related intrusive thoughts had no significant negative impact on QOL, but in women with low social support there was negative effect on QOL.

Amir and Ramati [191]

2002

Post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD), QOL, and emotional distress in long term survivors of breast cancer and a control group

Higher PSTD, emotional distress and lower QOL in breast cancer mainly due to chemotherapy and disease stage.

Ganz et al. [192]

2003

Psychosocial adjustment 15 months after diagnosis in older women with breast cancer

Psychosocial adjustment at 15 months was predicted by better mental health, emotional social support and better self-rated interaction with health care providers.

Bordeleau et al. [193]

2003

Randomized trial of group psychological support vs. control in metastatic breast cancer

Supportive-expressive group therapy did not appear to influence QOL.

Badger et al. [194]

2004

Depression burden and psychological adjustment

Depression burden had negative effect on psychological adjustment and QOL.

Schreier and Williams [195]

2004

Anxiety in women receiving either radiation or chemotherapy for breast cancer

No significant differences for total QOL or any subscales by treatment; trait anxiety was higher for chemotherapy patients; state anxiety was high and did not decrease over the course of the treatment for either group.

Kershaw et al. [196]

2004

Coping strategies in advanced breast cancer patients and their family caregivers

Patients use more emotional support, religion and positive reframing strategies while family use more alcohol or drug. In both active coping was associated with higher QOL.

Lehto et al. [197]

2005

Psychological stress factors as predictors of QOL in patients receiving surgery alone vs. adjuvant treatment

Psychosocial factors were strongest predictors of QOL but not cancer type or treatment; non-cancer related stresses showed strongest QOL decreasing influence.

Roth et al. [198]

2005

Affective distress in women seeking immediate vs. delayed breast reconstruction after mastectomy

Women seeking immediate breast reconstruction showed relatively higher psychological impairment and physical disability.

Okamura et al. [199]

2005

Psychiatric disorders and associated factors after first breast cancer recurrence

Patients' psychiatric disorders were associated with lower QOL.

Golden-Kreutz et al. [200]

2005

Traumatic stress, perceived global stress, and life events

Initial stress at diagnosis predicted both psychological and physical health at follow-up.

Deshields et al. [201]

2005

Emotional adjustment (at 4 points in time)

Primary psychological changes occur quickly after treatment conclusion and then it appeared to become stabled.

Laid law et al. [202]

2005

Self-hypnosis or Japanese healing or. control

Positive change in anxiety level, a general increase in mood and a better QOL were observed.

Schou et al. [203]

2005

Dispositional optimism and QOL.

Optimism was predictive for better emotional and social functioning one year after surgery; at time of diagnosis and throughout post-diagnosis dispositional optimism was associated with better QOL and fewer symptoms.

Grabsch et al. [204]

2006

Psychological morbidity in advanced breast cancer

42% (97/277) had a psychiatric disorder, 36% depression or anxiety or both. QOL was substantially affected.

Antoni et al. [205]

2006

Stress management after treatment for breast cancer

Stress management skill taught had beneficial effects on reduced social disruption, and increased emotional well-being, positive states of mind, benefit finding, positive lifestyle change, and positive affect.

Wonghongkul et al. [206]

2006

Uncertainty appraisal coping

Social support was used most to cope and confront-coping used the least; year of survival, uncertainty in illness and harm appraisal influenced QOL.

Yen et al. [207]

2006

Depression and stress in breast cancer versus benign tumor

Stress from health problem was the most significant predictor for QOL among malignant group.

Costanzo et al. [208]

2007

Adjustment to life after treatment

While breast cancer survivors demonstrated good adjustment on general distress following treatment, some women were at risk for sustained distress.

Wong and Fielding [209]

2007

Change in psychological distress and change in QOL

The magnitude of change in psychological distress significantly impacted physical and functional, but not social QOL in breast cancer patients.

Meneses et al. [210]

2007

Psycho-educational intervention and QOL

Breast cancer education intervention is an effective intervention in improving QOL during the first year of breast cancer survivorship.

Psychological distress in breast cancer patients is mostly related to depression, anxiety, and low emotional functioning and almost all studies have shown that psychological distress contributed to impaired quality of life especially emotional functioning, social functioning, mental health and overall quality of life. The diagnosis of the disease, importance of fears and concerns regarding death and disease recurrence, impairment of body image, and alteration of femininity, sexuality and attractiveness are factors that can cause unexpected psychological distress even years after diagnosis and treatment [211213].

Studies have shown that psychological factors predict subsequent quality of life [200] or even overall survival in breast cancer patients [214]. A study showed that patients with lower coping capacity reported higher prevalence of symptoms, experienced higher levels of distress, and experienced worse perceived health, which in turn decreased their quality of life [215]. Furthermore, it has been shown that psychological adjustment such as the ability to cope with the disease, treatment and effects of treatment could improve outcome. The relationship between positive thinking and longer survival and a better quality of life is well documented [216].

Supportive care

A variety of topics were covered to address supportive care issues in breast cancer patients. These ranged from papers on controlling emesis to papers that reported issues related to counseling, social support and exercise to improve quality of life [217253]. The results are summarized in Table 10.
Table 10

A list of quality of life studies covering supportive care topics in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author (s) [Ref.]

Year

Intervention

Results/conclusion(s)

van Holten-Verzantvoort et al. [217]

1991

Pamidronate vs. control to reduce skeletal morbidity

Less short-term mobility impairment and bone pain in treatment group but not at long term.

Young-McCaughan and Sexton [218]

1991

Aerobic exercise

Higher QOL in women who exercised.

Soukop et al. [219]

1992

Ondansetron vs. metoclopramide to control emesis

Ondansetron was significantly superior.

Kornblith et al. [220]

1993

Megestrol acetate in dose-response trial to prevent appetite loss

Lower dose was optimal achieving fewest side effects and a better QOL.

Clavel et al. [221]

1993

Ondansetron to control emesis (review of five randomized trials)

Ondansetron provided significant QOL benefits compared with metoclopramide and alizapride)

Ashbury et al. [222]

1998

One-on-one peer support (Reach to Recovery programme)

Patients were satisfied and the programme had incremental benefits to QOL of patients.

Lee [223]

1997

Social support (Reach to Recovery programme)

Social support plays a vital role in promoting overall QOL.

Wengstrom et al. [224]

1999

Nursing intervention vs. control

No measurable effect on side effects or QOL but proved to have a positive effect in minimizing stress.

Lachaine et al. [225]

1999

Ondansetron or metoclopramide to control emesis

Emesis control was significantly better in ondansetron; global QOL decreased more with metoclopramide.

Ritz et al. [226]

2000

Advanced nursing care (APN)+ standard care vs. standard care

APN improved some QOL indicators.

Molenaar et al. [227]

2001

Decision support to help patients to choose mastectomy or breast conservation

Decision-making improved as evaluated in terms of satisfaction and QOL.

Sammarco [228]

2001

Perceived social support and uncertainty in younger breast cancer survivors

Significant positive correlation between perceived social support and QOL, and significant negative correlation between uncertainty, and QOL.

Michael et al. [229]

2002

Social networks

Pre-diagnosis level of social integration was important factor in future QOL, and explains more of the variance than treatment or tumour characteristics.

Olsson et al. [230]

2002

Erythropoietin (randomized to two different doses epoetin-beta) for treatment of anemia

Global QOL was significantly improved and there was no difference between two study arms.

O'Shaughnessy [231]

2002

Effects of epoetin-alfa to prevent neuronal apoptosis vs. placebo

Improved cognitive function, mood and QOL in treatment group.

Graves et al. [232]

2003

8-week intervention based on social cognitive theory vs. standard care

Women in intervention group improved more on QOL, mood, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations.

Courneya et al. [233]

2003

Exercise training (randomized trial)

Exercise training had beneficial effects on QOL.

Turner [234]

2004

Seated exercise

Reduced fatigue and improved QOL observed.

Headley et al. [235]

2004

Effect of seated exercise vs. control

Women with advanced breast cancer randomized to the seated exercise had a slower decline in total physical well-being and less increase in fatigue.

Weinfurt et al. [236]

2004

Zoledronic asid or pamidornate disodium for metastatic bone lesion

Overall increase in QOL was observed.

Diel et al. [237]

2004

Ibandronate vs. placebo in breast cancer with metastatic bone pain

A significant improvement in QOL was observed in intervention group; fatigue and pain were also reduced.

Body et al. [238]

2004

Ibandronate vs. placebo in breast cancer with metastatic bone pain

Oral ibandronate had beneficial effects on bone pain and QOL and was well tolerated.

Wardley et al. [239]

2005

Zoledronic acid in community setting vs. hospital setting in breast cancer patients with bone metastases

No difference between settings; safety and QOL benefits were observed.

Yoo et al. [240]

2005

Muscle relaxation training and guided imagery vs. control

Less anticipatory and post-chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and higher QOL in intervention group.

Manning-Walsh [241]

2005

Relationships between persona land religious support and symptom distress and QOL

Personal support was positively related to QOL and had partial mediated effects on symptom distress but religious support was not.

Gordon et al. [242]

2005

Home-based physiotherapy or group-based exercise or no intervention

Physiotherapy was found beneficial for functioning, physical and overall QOL.

Kendall et al. [243]

2005

Influence of exercise (13.2 years following diagnosis)

High level of functioning was observed; those whose exercise increased, maintained a better QOL.

Chang et al. [244]

2005

Effect of weekly epoetin alfa on maintaining hemoglobin levels, and reduction of transfusion vs. standard care

Epoetin alfa improved QOL, maintained hemoglobin levels and reduced of transfusion.

Hudis et al [245]

2005

Effect of weekly epoetin alfa on hemoglobin levels

Epoetin alfa improved hemoglobin levels, and QOL in mildly anemic patients.

Badger et al. [246]

2005

Telephone interpersonal counseling (TPC) vs. usual care

TIP-C was partially effective in symptom management and improved QOL.

Cheema and Gual [247]

2006

Full-body exercise training (before and after evaluation study)

Significant improvements were observed in upper- and lower-body strength, endurance, and QOL.

Sutton and Erlen [248]

2006

Mutual dyadic support intervention

Most dyadic relationships were supportive, some reciprocal and some experienced conflicts.

Round et al. [249]

2006

Recovery advice to prevent treatment problems

Recovery advice given to women neither was supported nor refuted to be able improve QOL.

Giese-Davis et al. [250]

2006

Peer counseling intervention (newly diagnosed and peer counselors)

Significant improvement in newly diagnosed was observed in trauma symptoms, emotional well-being, and self-efficacy but increased emotional suppression and declined QOL in peer counselors.

Moadel et al. [251]

2007

Effects of yoga on QOL

Yoga was associated with beneficial effects on social functioning among breast cancer survivors.

Hartmann et al. [252]

2007

Effects of a step-by-step inpatient rehabilitation programme and QOL

Although not generally superior to conventional inpatient rehabilitation programmes, the step-by-step rehabilitation provided marked benefits for patients with cognitive impairments.

Kim et al. [253]

2007

Effect of complex decongestive therapy (CDT) on edema and QOL in breast cancer patients with unilateral leymphedema

CDT for upper limb lymphedema resulted in significant improved edema and QOL.

Symptoms

There were studies on breast cancer symptoms and their relationship to quality of life. Most of these studies were related to fatigue, lymphedema, pain, and menopausal symptoms. The results are summarized in Table 11[254280].
Table 11

A list of studies of quality of life and common symptoms in breast cancer patients (1974–2007)

Author (s) [Ref.]

Year

Main focus

Results/conclusion(s)

Hann et al. [254]

1998

Fatigue following radiotherapy

Women experienced fatigue but not worse than expected.

Carpenter et al. [255]

1998

Hot flushes

65% (n = 114) reported ht flushes, with 59% of women with hot flushes rating the symptom as severe; hot flushes were most severe in women with a higher body mass index, those who were younger at diagnosis, and those receiving tamoxifen.

Hann et al. [256]

1999

Fatigue after high-dose therapy and autolougous stem cell rescue

Fatigue was related to medical and psychosocial factors.

Velanovich and Szymanski [257]

1999

Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurred in a minority of patients and negatively affected QOL.

Bower et al. [258]

2000

Fatigue, occurrence, and correlates

About one-third (n = 1957) reported more severe fatigue which was associate with higher level of depression, pain, and sleep difficulties.

Kuehn [259]

2000

Surgery related symptoms following ALND

Shoulder-arm morbidity following ALND was found to be the most important long-term sources of distress.

Stein et al. [260]

2000

Hot flushes

Hot flushes have a negative impact on QOL that may be due to fatigue and interference with sleep.

Beaulac et al. [261]

2002

Lymphedema in survivors of early-stage breast cancer

MAS or BCS patients had similar lymphedema rates (28%–42/151) and had negative impact on long-term QOL in survivors.

Kwan et al. [262]

2002

Arm morbidity after curative breast cancer treatment

Symptomatic patients and patients with lymphedema had impaired QOL compared to patients with no symptoms.

Fortner et al. [263]

2002

Sleep difficulties

Most patients had significant sleep problems that frequently being disturbed by pain, nocturia, feeling too hot, and coughing or snoring loudly; patients having significant sleep problems had greater deficits in QOL.

Engel et al. [264]

2003

Arm morbidity

Up to 5 years after diagnosis 38% (n = 990) were still experienced arm problems and for these patients QOL was significantly lower than patients without arm morbidity; extent of axilla, younger age, and operating clinic significantly contributed to arm morbidity.

Caffo et al. [265]

2003

Pain after surgery

Pain distressed 40% of patients (n = 529) regardless of treatment type and had negative effect on patients' QOL.

Rietman et al. [266]

2004

Impairments and disabilities (2.7 years after surgery)

Pain was the most frequent assessed impairment after breast cancer treatment with strong relationship to perceived disability and QOL.

Schults et al. [267]

2005

Menopausal symptoms

Menopausal signs and symptoms may not be different or the breast cancer survivors and they should not be confused with the QOL/psychosocial issues of the cancer survivors.

Ridner [268]

2005

Lymphedema

Survivors with lymphedema reported poorer QOL; a symptom cluster including limb sensation, loss of confidence in body, decreased physical activity, fatigue and psychological distress was identified.

Conde et al. [269]

2005

Menopausal symptoms

Prevalence of menopausal symptoms was similar in women with and without breast cancer; sexual activity was less frequent in breast cancer patients.

Burckhardt et al. [270]

2005

Pain

Widespread pain significantly caused more experience of pain severity, pain impact and lower physical health than regional pain.

Mills et al. [271]

2005

Fatigue

Pre-chemotherapy and chemotherapy induced inflammation were related to fatigue and QOL.

Massacesi [272]

2006

Effects of endocrine related symptoms in breast cancer who had switched from tamoxifen to anastrozole

Endocrine related symptoms improved but higher rate of mild arthritic and bone pain were reported.

Land et al. [273]

2006

Tamoxifen or raloxifene related symptoms

No significant differences between groups; tamoxifen group reported better sexual function, more gynecological problems and vasomotor symptoms while raloxifene group reported more musculoskeletal problems and weight gain.

Heidrich et al. [274]

2006

Symptoms, and symptom beliefs in older breast cancer patients vs. older women without breast cancer

Symptom experience and QOL of older breast cancer survivors were similar to those of older women with other chronic health problems.

Gupta et al. [275]

2006

Menopausal symptoms

96% reported vasomotor, 83% psychological and 90% somatic symptoms (n = 200) which negatively correlated not only their own but also with their partners' QOL.

Byar et al. [276]

2006

Fatigue

Fatigue was associated with other physical and psychological symptoms and higher fatigue compromised QOL.

Arndt et al. [277]

2006

Fatigue

Fatigue emerged as the strongest predictor of QOL.

Pyszel et al. [278]

2006

Disability, and psychological distress in breast cancer survivors with and without lymphedema

Patients with arm lymphedema were more disabled, experienced a poorer QOL and had increased psychological distress in comparison to those without lymphedema.

Dagnelie et al. [279]

2007

Fatigue

Of all QOL domains/subscales, fatigue is by far the predominant contributor to patient-perceived overall QOL in breast cancer patients preceding high-dose radiotherapy.

Janz et al. [280]

2007

Relationship between symptoms and post-treatment QOL

Five most common symptoms were: systemic therapy side effects, fatigue, breast symptoms, sleep difficulties, and arm symptoms. Fatigue had the greatest impact on QOL.

ALND: axillary lymph node dissection, ASCT: autologous stem cell transplantation, SLNB: sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Fatigue is the least definable symptom experienced by patients with breast cancer and its effect on impaired quality of life cannot be explained precisely. A recent publication studying 1,588 breast cancer patients showed that fatigue (as measured by the EORTC QLQ-C30 fatigue subscale) independently predicted longer recurrence-free survival when biological factors were controlled in the analysis. When combined with the biological model, fatigue still remained a significant predictor of recurrence-free survival [214].

Sexual functioning

Breast cancer could be regarded as a disease that relates to women's identities. In this respect, sexual functioning is an important issue, especially in younger breast cancer patients. Among quality of life studies in breast cancer patients only six papers focused especially on sexual functioning [281286]. The findings indicated that disrupted sexual functioning or unsatisfactory sexual life was related to poorer quality of life at younger age, treatment with chemotherapy, total mastectomy, emotional distress consequent on an unsatisfactory sexual life, and difficulties with partners because of sexual relationships.

Discussion

This bibliographic review has provided an extensive list of studies that focused on quality of life in breast cancer patients. The article might be criticized on the grounds that it included every paper on the topic and that it provides more enumeration than insight. However, this was not an in-depth review but rather, as indicated in the title, a bibliographic investigation and descriptive in nature. The benefit of such an approach is that it reveals how much effort has been made in this area and shows the achievements of a journey that was started more than 30 years ago. If quality of life has now become an important part of breast cancer patients' care, it is due to all these efforts. Furthermore, this approach might help potential investigators to formulate new questions or conduct more focused studies on the topic in the future. It should be admitted that investigations of this type have limitations and are inconclusive. Since in this review the search strategy was limited to the key words 'quality of life' and 'breast cancer' in titles, perhaps many other papers also were missed even from enumeration. However, an up coming complementary review by the author will focus on these missing papers.

A number of studies that covered measurement issues and introduced instruments used to measure quality of life in breast cancer patients. Hopefully there is now sufficient evidence to use these valid instruments and to adopt the practices that are needed to assess quality of life in research or clinical settings. Since 1974, when the first study on quality of life in breast cancer patients was published, there has been quite impressive progress and improvement, indicating that measuring quality of life in breast cancer patients is both crucial and scientific. Now several valid instruments that capture quality of life dimensions in cancer patients in general and in breast cancer patients in particular are available. The EORTC QLQ-C30, EORTC QLQ-BR23, FACIT-G and FACIT-B are among the most acceptable instruments to patients and health professionals. They have been used in many studies, so it is possible to compare results between studies with similar objectives. It seems that it is time to stop developing new instruments, since there are enough valid and comprehensive measures to assess quality of life in breast cancer patients. New instruments might cause confusion and may be regarded as a waste of resources, so any such developments would need robust justification. Depending on the objectives of any single study, one might use other existing valid measures such as the Satisfaction with Life Domains Scale for Breast Cancer (SLDS-BC), which can briefly and rapidly assess quality of life across the breast cancer continuum of care [287]; the Body Image After Breast Cancer Questionnaire (BIBCQ); which is a valid measure for assessing the long-term impact of breast cancer on body image [288]; and the Fallowfield's Sexual Activity Questionnaire (FSAQ), which is a useful tool for measuring sexual activity in women with cancer [289].

There were some important technical issues that should be addressed. Some believe that if we perform complex analyses of quality of life data or if we use several instruments in a single study then we might achieve more scientific results. There is evidence that this could merely lead to misleading findings and might be a source of suffering for the patients [84]. The recommendation is to analyze data in a simple way and avoid complexity. The presentation of data should be straightforward and easy to follow; otherwise those who are critical of such findings might conclude that these are manipulations of data, or they might ask whether these numbers and statistics reflect what really happens to breast cancer patients or the clinical teams that care for them. Do these figures convey difficulties that exist in treating breast cancer patients or help to manage their symptoms?

The present review covered several topics and provided tables to indicate areas that need more attention. It appears that the most common and important disease- and treatment-related side-effects and symptoms in breast cancer patients including arm morbidity, pain, fatigue and postmenopausal symptoms, are among neglected topics. As noted by Cella and Fallowfield, recognition and management of treatment-related side-effects for breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant endocrine therapy is an important issue since such side-effects negatively affect health-related quality of life and adherences to therapy. These authors argue that adverse events constitute the main reason for non-adherence to endocrine treatment, and across all adjuvant endocrine trials regardless of the treatment, vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes are the most common side effects. Other frequently reported side-effects such as vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, dyspareunia, and arthralgia vary in prevalence between tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors [290]. It has been recommended that currently in assessing quality of life in breast cancer patients priorities should be given to cognitive functioning, menopausal symptoms, body image and long-term effects of new therapies that might cause musculoskeletal and neurological side-effects [35]. In addition, sexual functioning seems important area that needs more attention, especially for younger breast cancer survivors. It is argued that younger survivors may need interventions that specifically target their needs related to menopausal symptoms and problems with relationships, sexual functioning and body image [291].

There were few qualitative studies. Since these could provide more insight into quality of life in breast cancer patients, we need more such studies to collect data and indicate how breast cancer patients interpret life after diagnosis and during and after treatment. Breast cancer survivors even might rate their quality of life more favorably than outpatients with other common medical conditions and identify many positive aspects from the cancer experience [180]. However, it is not only the study of quality of life in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients that is necessary; studying quality of life in long-term survivors is equally important. As suggested, when assessing quality of life in breast cancer patients, the stage of disease should also be considered. There are differences in quality of life between patients with non-invasive breast cancer, newly diagnosed breast cancer and advanced local breast cancer, and disease-free breast cancer survivors, women with recurrence breast cancer, and women with advanced metastatic breast cancer [292].

Conclusion

There was quite an extensive body of the literature on quality of life in breast cancer patients. These papers have made a considerable contribution to improving breast cancer care, although their exact benefit was hard to define. However, quality of life data provided scientific evidence for clinical decision-making and conveyed helpful information concerning breast cancer patients' experiences during the course of the disease diagnosis, treatment, disease-free survival time, and recurrences; otherwise finding patient-centered solutions for evidence-based selection of optimal treatments, psychosocial interventions, patient-physician communications, allocation of resources, and indicating research priorities were impossible. It seems that more qualitative research is needed for a better understanding of the topic. In addition, issues related to the disease, its treatment side effects and symptoms, and sexual functioning should receive more attention when studying quality of life in breast cancer patients.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thanks Dr. Elena Elkin, Dr. Lonneke van de Poll-Franse, and Dr. Su Wilson for their helpful comments on early version of the manuscript and also Mrs. T. Rostami for her secretarial assistance. This was a piece of pure academic research work and the author did not receive any financial support or grant for the study.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Iranian Institute for Health Sciences Research (IHSR)
(2)
Iranian Centre for Breast Cancer (ICBC)

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