(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Overall quality of life (QOL) is compromised in younger breast cancer survivors; specifically, women age <51 years experience distinct psychosocial and menopause-related concerns, weight gain, and physical inactivity, a study published online January 23, 2012, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women younger than 50 years of age.

Patricia A. Ganz, MD, of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, California, and colleagues conducted a literature search of articles published between January 1990 and July 2010 and selected 28 with data relevant to three key domains of functioning for younger women with breast cancer: health-related QOL, menopausal symptoms and fertility concerns, and behavioral health outcomes.

Overall QOL was found to be compromised in younger women with breast cancer, with mental vs. physical functioning domains most severely impacted. “Anxiety over the future and fear of cancer recurrence are prominent,” the investigators noted. Compared with the general population of women without cancer in the respective age groups, depressive symptoms appeared more common in younger women, particularly in those <35 years of age. Premature menopause, infertility, and menopause-related symptoms were more common and found to be contributing factors to the level of distress in women 50 years of age or younger after treatment. Common health outcomes in younger women included weight gain and physical inactivity.

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“Given the long life expectancy of this group of breast cancer survivors, serious consideration should be given to the development and evaluation of interventions that target energy balance, fertility preservation, menopausal symptoms, and management of depression and anxiety,” the investigators wrote.

Abstract, Journal of the National Cancer Institute