Psychosocial/Survivorship Issues in Breast Cancer: Are We Doing Better?

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Abstract

Modern breast cancer treatment offers many women greater prospects of cure or lengthier, good quality survival than was possible in the past. Advances include improved diagnostic and staging procedures, sophisticated onco-plastic surgery, enhanced radiotherapy techniques, and targeted systemic therapies. Much more attention has also been paid to cancer care delivery and access to specialist nurses, counsellors, support groups, and services provided by breast cancer charities. However, there are some concerns that these considerable improvements in treatment delivery and clinical outcomes have not led to similar benefits in the psychosocial, functional, and sexual well-being of women. The impact that non–life threatening, long-term iatrogenic harms of otherwise efficacious anticancer treatments has on patients is often overlooked; this is in part because of the emphasis given to physician-reported safety data in trials and the general exclusion of patient-reported outcomes (PROs). A failure to utilise reliable PRO measures has meant that some problems are underreported, which consequently has hampered much-needed research into ameliorative interventions. Systematic monitoring of quality of life-threatening side effects would permit early implementation of effective interventions and enhance long-term survivorship. Some examples of the pervasive difficulties that continue to affect survivors and evidence that certain interventions might help are provided in this commentary.

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