Does Rurality Affect Quality of Life Following Treatment for Breast Cancer?

J Rural Health. Fall 2010;26(4):402-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2010.00295.x.


Purpose: The present research examined the extent to which rural residence and social support seeking are associated with quality of life (QOL) among breast cancer patients following chemotherapy.

Methods: Female breast cancer patients (n = 46) from communities of varying degrees of rurality in a Midwestern state completed psychological and QOL measures at 1-month postchemotherapy. Analyses assessed the relationships between QOL outcomes, rurality, and social support seeking.

Findings: Using age and education as covariates, regression analyses were conducted to determine the extent to which QOL was related to social support seeking and rural/urban residence. Analyses revealed that social support seeking was associated with lower scores on multiple indices of QOL, and it was associated with higher self-reported symptoms of depression. Several significant associations with rural/urban residence were noted as well. Specifically, increasing rurality, as defined by USDA Rural-Urban continuum codes, was associated with lower overall QOL, lower functional well-being, and increased complaints of breast cancer specific symptoms.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the relevance of continued efforts to address social support needs among women with a history of breast cancer living in rural and urban communities. They also suggest that individuals in more rural communities may be at risk for lowered QOL in the early period following cancer treatment. Future research is needed to replicate these results with larger and more diverse samples of rural and urban dwelling individuals, and to determine whether these effects may be attributed to identifiable characteristics of rural communities (eg, fewer cancer-related resources).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States