Objective: To examine the relationship between cancer stage, surgical treatment and chemotherapy on quality of life (QOL) after breast cancer and determine if sociodemographic characteristics modify the observed relationships.
Methods: A population-based sample of women with Stages 0-II breast cancer in the United States (N = 1357) completed surveys including the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30), and the Breast Cancer-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (QLQ BR-23). Regression models calculated mean QOL scores across primary surgical treatment and chemotherapy. Clinically significant differences in QOL were defined as > or = 10 point difference (out of 100) between groups.
Results: Meaningful differences in QOL by surgical treatment were limited to body image with women receiving mastectomy with reconstruction reporting lower scores than women receiving breast conserving surgery (p < 0.001). Chemotherapy lowered QOL scores overall across four QOL dimensions (p values < 0.001), with a disproportionately greater impact on those with lower levels of education. Younger women reported lower QOL scores for seven of nine QOL dimensions (p values < 0.001).
Conclusions: Women should be reassured that few QOL differences exist based on surgical treatment, however, clinicians should recognize that the impact of treatment on QOL does vary by a woman's age and educational level.