In a survey of nearly 600 women who were all age 50 or younger when they first were diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers found that the majority of women report they have a good quality of life an average of six years after their diagnosis. Yet, the youngest women in the study -- those who were between 25 and 34 when they were diagnosed -- showed greater changes in energy and poorer emotional functioning than the women in the study who were older at diagnosis.
The study was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"There is a positive message here that overall function is going to be good for the majority of younger women who survive breast cancer. Yet there are subgroups who may be at more risk for problems," said Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and lead author of the study. "The youngest women report persistent energy loss and psychological difficulties. They are a group doctors and others need to target for intervention."
Other problems include early menopause, loss of ability to have children and depression. "It is important for us to acknowledge that many symptoms and problems persist long beyond the acute phase of breast cancer treatment," Ganz said.
This is the first large, multiethnic study to have detailed descriptive information about what younger breast cancer survivors are experiencing.
"You can imagine if you get cancer at 30 years-of-age and no one else in your family has had it, and you have to go through all this treatment with uncertainty about the outcome, that there's going to be a sort of sword of Damocles hanging over your head," Ganz said. "So that's what these findings talk about;