The survey, conducted by physicians at Fox Chase Cancer Center, included women with early stage breast cancer treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation with or without chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
"Treatments for breast cancer may decrease quality of life temporarily, but this is evidence that survivors on average will return to a normal quality of life," said Gary Freedman, M.D., an attending physician in the department of radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center who led the survey.
The women in the study were asked to complete a brief questionnaire during routine follow-up visits with their oncologist. Out of the 1,050 women surveyed, 32 percent submitted 1 survey, 29 percent submitted 2, 21 percent submitted 3 and 18 percent submitted 4 or more surveys.
The participants were at various points in their follow-up -- from 3 months to 15 years after treatment. The mean follow-up time between treatment and the survey was 3 years.
The researchers used a survey tool, called EQ-5D, a standardized and validated instrument for measuring health outcomes. There are 5 general questions about health including questions about mobility, self-care, anxiety/depression, pain/discomfort, and ability to perform usual activities. The survey allows for three possible levels of response (1 = no problems, 2 = some problems, or 3 = extreme problems). The index scores gathered in this survey were compared to a survey of the general U.S. adult population (Luo et al Med Care 2005; 43:1078-86).
The health states of patients did not show any significant differences depending on the age.The mean index score 5 years after treatment was 0.95 for women ages 18-44, 0.90 for women ages 45-64, and 0.88 for women older than 64. The mean index score 10 years after treatment was 0.96 for women ages 18-44, 0.93 for women ages 45-64, and 0.76 for women older than 64.
After comparison, the mean index scores for the general U.S. female population by age was found to be 0.91 for ages 18-44, 0.84 for ages 45-64, and 0.81 for women over 64.
"These data appear to show breast cancer survivors have a very high quality of life when compared to the general population," said Freedman.
He revealed that in four of the five questions, a statistically significant trend was observed with the women moving between none or some problems over the years following treatment.
As per the question regarding self-care, the patients' trend upped, moving from "no problems" to "some problems." For 3 of the questions-anxiety, pain and ability to do usual activities-- patients reported improved health states from "some problems" to "no problems."
But, there were a very few women (less than 5 percent) who claimed to have extreme problems with pain, usual activity or self care.
The study was presented at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.