Late and long-term effects of breast cancer treatment and surveillance management for the general practitioner

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. May-Jun 2014;43(3):382-98. doi: 10.1111/1552-6909.12300. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Objective: To examine the most common long-term and late effects of breast cancer treatment, the American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines for surveillance, and recommendations for the primary care provider's role in delivering breast cancer survivorship care.

Data sources: A comprehensive literature review was conducted using CINAHL, PubMed, Google Scholar, and hand searches using the search terms breast cancer, survivor, and long-term or late effects.

Study selection: Articles published in English from 2002 to 2012 that addressed the long-term or late effects of adults with breast cancer were included.

Data extraction: Findings are discussed categorically, including the most common late and long-term psychosocial effects from relevant studies.

Data synthesis: Topics relevant to survivors included challenges to psychosocial, emotional, and cognitive well-being; satisfaction with life; sexuality; body image; anxiety; fear of recurrence and post-traumatic stress disorder; depression; cognitive dysfunction challenges to physical well-being; adverse cardiovascular events; fatigue; lymphedema; musculoskeletal symptoms; accelerated bone loss and fractures; pain; skin changes due to radiation; disease recurrence; and new breast cancers.

Conclusions: With earlier detection methods and improvements in treatment options making breast cancer a highly survivable disease, there are more survivors of breast cancer than ever. The clinicians' role in survivorship care is more important than ever to manage the potential long-term and late effects of treatment, physical and emotional well-being, and recurrent disease surveillance. However, the clinician's role in cancer follow-up care is often poorly defined leading to a lack of awareness about the needs of survivors of breast cancer, suboptimal communication between providers and survivors, and an overall deficiency in quality care.

Keywords: breast cancer; breast cancer survivorship; late effects of treatment; long-term effects of treatment; primary care provider and breast cancer follow-up care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / trends
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • General Practitioners
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physician's Role
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Survivors
  • Time