Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 241–250 | Cite as

Ethnicity and persistent symptom burden in breast cancer survivors

  • Olivia S. Fu
  • Katherine D. Crew
  • Judith S. Jacobson
  • Heather Greenlee
  • Gary Yu
  • Julie Campbell
  • Yvette Ortiz
  • Dawn L. HershmanEmail author



Relatively few studies of breast cancer survivors have included nonwhite women or women who do not speak English.


We administered a survey to patients who were ≥3 months post-completion of their adjuvant treatment for stage 0-III breast cancer at Columbia University Medical Center in order to assess the prevalence of 16 physical and emotional symptoms and identify sociodemographic factors associated with these symptoms. Univariate analysis, factor analysis, ANOVA, and multiple linear regression analysis were performed.


Of 139 patients surveyed, 58 were white, 63 Hispanic, and 18 black. The symptom most commonly reported was fatigue(76%), and the most common severe symptom was muscle aches(40%). Most patients(70%) complained of ≥6 symptoms. Hispanic women were more likely to report >10 symptoms (p < 0.05). Factor analysis reduced the 16 symptoms to 4 underlying symptom clusters that we categorized as ‘depression’, ‘chemotherapy’, ‘hormone’, and ‘pain’-related. In the multiple linear regression models, Hispanic women were more likely to report chemotherapy-related symptoms (p < 0.05) and pain-related symptoms (p < 0.05). Unemployed women were more likely to report chemotherapy-related symptoms (p < 0.05). Women <45 years old were less likely to report chemotherapy (p < 0.05) and pain-related symptoms (p < 0.05).


The majority of women in this study, particularly those who were Hispanic, elderly, or unemployed, experienced persistent symptoms, most commonly fatigue and muscle aches.

Implications for cancer survivors

Because Hispanic, elderly, or unemployed women experience greater symptom burden, efforts should made to address their unique needs.


Breast cancer survivors Ethnicity Employment Elderly 



Olivia Fu did this work as part of a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship. Dr. Hershman is the recipient of a grant from the Susan Komen Foundation (DISP0706868).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivia S. Fu
    • 1
  • Katherine D. Crew
    • 1
    • 2
  • Judith S. Jacobson
    • 2
  • Heather Greenlee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gary Yu
    • 2
  • Julie Campbell
    • 1
  • Yvette Ortiz
    • 1
  • Dawn L. Hershman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Medicine and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer CenterCollege of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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