Coping with recurrent breast cancer: predictors of distressing symptoms and health-related quality of life

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Jul;34(1):24-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.10.017. Epub 2007 Jun 4.


Little is known about how postmenopausal women with recurrent breast cancer cope with distressing symptoms and which factors predict health-related quality of life (HRQOL). In the present study, 56 consecutively enrolled patients completed questionnaires measuring symptom occurrence, coping capacity, coping efforts, and HRQOL at the time of recurrence. Results from this study illustrate that women with recurrent breast cancer suffer from multiple, concurrent, and interrelated symptoms of illness, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Highly prevalent symptoms are lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, pain, worrying, problems with sexual interest, feeling sad, and dry mouth. The most frequently occurring symptom is problem with sexual interest, and the most severe symptom is worrying. The most distressing symptom experienced is pain. The majority of the women report 10-23 symptoms. Women who experience multiple symptoms also report higher levels of symptom distress. The experience of distressing symptoms is predicted by coping capacity, and the coping efforts experienced predict HRQOL. Patients with lower coping capacity report higher prevalence of symptoms, experience higher levels of distress, and experience worse perceived health, which in turn may decrease their HRQOL. To help women manage recurrent breast cancer, it is important to use multidimensional measurement to identify, evaluate, and treat distressing symptoms, and not assess single symptoms only. Care must be based upon the awareness of critical factors that exacerbate vulnerability to distress, as well as the ability to adapt to a recurrent breast cancer disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life*