Breast cancer is the number one cancer women are diagnosed with; however, the survival rate for young women diagnosed with cancer in its early stages has improved considerably over the last 20 years. Today, many young women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect long-term survival, but premature menopause, infertility and psychosocial effects such as depression and anxiety may affect their quality of life. In a new article, Quality of Life, Fertility Concerns, and Behavioral Health Outcomes in Younger Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review, authors Jessica Howard-Anderson, Patricia A. Ganz, Julienne E. Bower and Annette L. Stanton, examine three key components of functioning that appear to be significant to young breast cancer survivors: quality of life (QOL) health issues, menopause and infertility, and behavioral health outcomes.
The authors conducted a literature review using 26 articles found in PubMed, specifically focusing on women under the age of 51, to determine QOL health issues with breast cancer survivors. What they found was that young women’s QOL was compromised mentally and emotionally due to loss of fertility, weight gain, premature menopause, sexual function disorders and transition issues. Young breast cancer survivors reported a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than older breast cancer survivors, as a result of this QOL issues.
The authors go on to argue that the QOL health outcomes facing young breast cancer patients may be avoided if the cancer is treated not only based on the type of cancer, but by the age of the patient. They state that young breast cancer patients have different needs and therefore may warrant a different treatment regime. “By tailoring adjuvant therapy regimes and giving cytotoxic therapy only to those who may benefit, we can mitigate some of these side effects, but the long life expectancy for these young women also provides a window of opportunity for cancer prevention and health promotion activities.”
Overall, what is needed for young breast cancer patients is an established measure for how to treat this demographic that takes into consideration their long life expectancy, including fertility and menopause awareness, as well as behavioral health outcomes. More studies need to be conducted which evaluate patients pre and post cancer treatment to properly access their QOL before and after they were treated for cancer and potentially suffer any long-term side effects from their treatment. The Oncofertility Consortium provides information and guidance to oncologists, endocrinologists, and other health care providers concerned with expanding the reproductive options of cancer patients and survivors. To read Quality of Life, Fertility Concerns, and Behavioral Health Outcomes in Younger Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review, please click here.