, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 187-197

Assessment of quality of life in women undergoing hormonal therapy for breast cancer: validation of an endocrine symptom subscale for the FACT‐B

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Existing quality of life instruments do not include adequate items to measure the side effects and putative benefits of hormonal treatments given in breast cancer. We report the development and validation of an 18 item endocrine subscale (ES) to accompany a standardised breast cancer quality of life measure, the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT‐B) [1]. The FACT‐ES (FACT‐B plus ES) was tested initially on 268 women with breast cancer receiving endocrine treatments. Alpha coefficients for all subscales demonstrated good internal consistency (range α = 0.65–0.87). Test‐retest reliability of the ES indicated good stability (r = 0.93, p < 0.001). Advanced breast cancer patients' quality of life was high, showing the efficacy of endocrine therapy, but women with primary disease reported better physical, social, and functional well‐being and fewer breast cancer concerns. Most frequently reported symptoms were loss of sexual interest (31%), weight gain (25%), and hot flushes (24%). Significant differences were found between treatment groups for hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Two assessments of the instrument's responsiveness to change were made; 32 women in a clinical trial of endocrine therapy and 18 women without breast cancer taking HRT completed the FACT‐ES at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 weeks. Trial patients reported significantly more symptoms at 8 and 12 weeks than at baseline. Women taking HRT reported significantly fewer or less severe symptoms than at baseline. In conclusion the FACT‐ES has acceptable validity and reliability and is sensitive to clinically significant change, making it suitable for clinical trials of endocrine therapy.