Evaluation and management of insomnia in women with breast cancer

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2020 Jun;181(2):269-277. doi: 10.1007/s10549-020-05635-0. Epub 2020 Apr 20.


Purpose: Insomnia is a common issue among patients with breast cancer with a potentially devastating impact on quality of life. It can be caused or exacerbated by multiple disease and treatment-related factors. Despite the prevalence and impact of insomnia, it is rarely addressed systematically in the oncology clinic. We conducted a comprehensive review of insomnia to guide clinical care of patient's with breast cancer and insomnia.

Methods: This manuscript reviews the prevalence, etiology, emerging science and both non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic options for treatment of insomnia among patients with breast cancer.

Results: Multiple factors contribute to insomnia among patients with breast cancer including endocrine therapy and hotflashes, pain and discomfort from local therapy, and fear of recurrence. If we do identify insomnia, there are treatment options and strategies available to help patients. In particular, there is now a considerable body of evidence supporting the use of psychosocial interventions and behavioral treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), yoga, and mind-body programs. It is also important for oncology providers to be educated regarding available pharmacologic therapies and emerging data for cannabis-based therapy.

Conclusion: This manuscript provides an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the prevalence, etiology, and treatment approaches available for insomnia for clinicians treating patients with breast cancer. We also address strategies and goals for cancer care delivery and future research.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cognitive behavioral therapy; Insomnia; Review; Survivorship.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*