The Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group (DBCG) introduced BCT as a standard treatment in Denmark in 1990. The aim of this study was to investigate late morbidity, cosmetic outcome, and body image after BCT and to associate these outcome variables with patient, tumor, and treatment characteristics.
Material and methods: A total of 214 patients treated with BCT from 1989-2002 participated in a long-term follow-up visit comprising an interview, clinical examination, photos of the breast region and completion of a questionnaire on Body Image.
Results: Median follow-up time was 12 years (range 7-20). Moderate to severe fibrosis was found in 23% of patients and was associated with chemotherapy [OR 2.6, CI (1.1; 5.9), p = 0.02], large breast size [OR 3.2, CI (1.6; 6.4), p = 0.001], and smoking [OR 2.4, CI (1.1; 4.9), p = 0.02]. Patients with a satisfactory cosmetic outcome, when assessed by a clinician, were characterized by small tumors [OR 3.2, CI (1.5; 6.8), p = 0.003] and small to medium sized breasts [OR 2.0, CI (1.1; 3.5), p = 0.002]. Fifty percent of patients scored good or excellent when assessed by a clinician compared to 88% when reported by the patients themselves. Patients satisfied with their own cosmetic outcome were the younger patients [< 50 years; OR 3.2, CI (1.1; 8.6), p = 0.03] with no postoperative complications [OR 3.3, CI (1.2; 9.2), p = 0.02]. Regarding body image 15% felt less feminine, 25% felt less sexually attractive, and 28% of patients had changed their clothing habits as a result of the disease or treatment.
Conclusion: The majority of patients were satisfied with their cosmetic outcome after BCT, whereas only half of the patients were found to have a good or excellent cosmetic outcome when assessed by the clinician. Body image was found to be only minimally disturbed in the majority of patients. The level of moderate to severe fibrosis was acceptable compared to both national and international studies with similar patient compositions.