Breast cancer is a treatable disease, but the chemotherapy or surgery associated with the disease are treatments that afflict patients and leave different “sequelae,” or after-effects, depending on the individual. Although some symptoms may be experienced by most patients, ultimately each experience is unique, as concluded by a recent study conducted by Stefan Feiten and colleagues from the Institut für Versorgungsforschung in der Onkologie, in Koblenz, Germany, and published in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International journal, entitled, “Breast Cancer Morbidity: Ausgabe_A Questionnaire Survey of Patients on the Long Term Effects of Disease and Adjuvant Therapy.”
According to the researchers, people often assume that the main difference between breast cancer treatment from patient to patient is whether they receive a mastectomy or not. However, symptoms such as pain, fatigue, exhaustion, or sleep disturbances represent the biggest disturbances experienced by patients in very different manners and intensities, depending on a large variety of factors. According to the authors, proper aftercare must take specific symptoms into consideration, and therefore understand and document a patient’s symptoms in order to target the treatment appropriately.
Feiten performed a survey in which he identifies the risk factors of certain groups of patients, comprised of younger, premenopausal women who suffer notably more from the effects of breast cancer than older women, particularly emotionally. A quarter of the patients reported changes in their relationship with their spouses, more than ten percent started consulting a psychiatrist or psychotherapist after the diagnosis, and more 12% resorted to psychoactive medication also after being diagnosed with the disease.
The survey revealed that 91% of the women who submitted to surgery were satisfied with its outcome. However, 34% suffered site pain and 35% experienced limitations of shoulder or arm functions. The scientists also observe that women preparing for breast cancer treatment should be provided with detailed information about the after-effects.
“Treatment for breast cancer has negative physical, emotional, and social effects on many patients. They suffer these effects to varying degrees depending on age, type of surgery, and systemic treatment,” the research team led by Stefan Feiten concluded.
The conclusions of the survey were analyzed after 734 questionnaires conducted by women who submitted to surgery for breast cancer and were subsequently systemically treated in one single certified breast-cancer center between 2006 and 2010. The women were between the ages of 30 and 91 years old, and 78% of the patients underwent breast conserving surgery, 85% had radiotherapy, 85% had antihormonal treatment, and 49% had chemotherapy. The researchers also conducted the survey at an age-adjusted control group.