Breast Cancer Before 50 Linked to More Distress

FRIDAY Jan. 20, 2012 -- Younger women with breast cancer may experience a decrease in their health-related quality of life because of increased mental distress, weight gain and other factors, a new study finds.

Decreased physical activity, infertility and early-onset menopause were among the other problems these women faced, according to the report published Jan. 20 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The findings were based on data from 28 previous studies, conducted between 1990 and 2010, which focused on how breast cancer affects the quality of life of breast cancer patients aged 50 and younger.

The review revealed that overall quality of life was reduced in these patients, and that mental issues were more severe than physical problems, said Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues.

The investigators also found that younger breast cancer patients were more depressed than women of the same age without cancer in the general population, or breast cancer patients older than 50. Premature menopause, infertility and menopause-related symptoms were more common among patients 50 and younger and contributed to their levels of distress, the findings showed.

Even though exercise rates among younger patients generally increased after treatment, weight gain and physical inactivity were common among these women, the study authors pointed out in a university news release.

The findings suggest that personalized treatment is particularly important for younger women with breast cancer, the researchers said.

"By tailoring adjuvant therapy regimens and giving cytotoxic therapy [such as chemotherapy] only to those who may benefit, we can mitigate some of these side effects, but the long life expectancy for these younger women also provides a window of opportunity for cancer prevention and health promotion activities," the study authors concluded in their report.

More information

The American Cancer Society outlines lifestyle changes to consider during and after breast cancer treatment.

Posted: January 2012


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