Ethnicity and persistent symptom burden in breast cancer survivors

J Cancer Surviv. 2009 Dec;3(4):241-50. doi: 10.1007/s11764-009-0100-7. Epub 2009 Oct 27.


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

Methods: We administered a survey to patients who were >or=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.

Results: 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 >or=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).

Conclusions: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors*