, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 45-57

Quality of Life of Breast Cancer Survivors After a Recurrence: A Follow-Up Study

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Previous studies on breast cancer recurrence provide a mixed picture of the quality of life of women following a recurrence. To clarify the picture, the present study addresses some previous methodological concerns by offering a multidimensional assessment with follow-up, a matched comparison group of disease-free survivors, and a closer look at the nature of recurrence (local versus metastatic). Fifty-Four of 817 women who participated in an earlier study experienced a recurrence at follow-up, and are compared to a matched sample of 54 women who remained disease-free. Analyses indicate that women who had a recurrence report significantly poorer functioning on various health-related quality of life (HRQOL) domains compared to women who remained disease-free. However, the differences appear to be largely due to the poorer HRQOL of women with metastatic disease. Although women who had a recurrence report good mood, low stress, and good quality of interpersonal relationships, they report significantly higher cancer-specific stress compared to disease-free women at follow-up. Women who had a recurrence also report experiencing both more meaning and vulnerability as a result of breast cancer than disease-free women, but report similar levels of spirituality and benefit-finding at follow-up as disease-free women. These results suggest that although women report relatively good psychosocial adjustment following a recurrence, cancer-specific domains of quality of life are most likely to be negatively affected. These results may be useful in identifying individuals with breast cancer recurrences who are most in need of psychosocial services.

This revised version was published online in October 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.