Background: High incidence rates of breast cancer emphasize the importance of increased knowledge about the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in this patient group. The aim of the present study was to describe and compare HRQoL among breast cancer patients shortly after diagnosis with normative data from the general population, and to investigate how clinical, demographic, and socio-economic factors and social support are associated with HRQoL.
Material and methods: Participants were identified in a population-based Breast Cancer Quality Register in central Sweden. Of 1573 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer during a one-year period (2007-2008), 69% (n = 1086) completed a questionnaire including the EORTC QLQ-C30, BR23 and the HADS.
Results: Compared to age-adjusted normative data, breast cancer patients (mean age 62 years, range 25-94), especially younger women (<50 years), experienced clinically meaningful poorer HRQoL. Clinically significant levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms were found among 14% and 6% of the patients, respectively. Factors associated with more problems/symptoms among study participants included chemotherapy, lack of social support, sick leave and a poor financial situation. Adding socio-economic factors diminished the association between age and HRQoL (p > 0.05).
Conclusion: Recently diagnosed breast cancer patients reported poorer HRQoL in several dimensions compared to normative data. In addition to clinical and demographic factors, an unfavorable socio-economic standing was associated with more problems/symptoms. The present findings emphasize the importance of taking a variety of factors into account when assessing HRQoL in the clinical setting.