The relationship between symptoms and feelings in young breast cancer survivors
Broxson, Anita C.
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Women diagnosed with breast cancer are often more vulnerable to the untoward effects of treatment, which may continue years beyond a diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which young breast cancer survivors (YBCS) experience cognitive problems, pain, sexual problems, and fatigue and the relationship between these symptoms and feelings, both positive and negative. The relationship between age at diagnosis and each symptom experience was also explored. A quantitative retrospective analysis was conducted of data from 905 young breast cancer survivors. Participants were female between the ages of 18 and 45 years diagnosed with breast cancer more than one year prior to study participation, and cancer-free at time of the survey. Symptom measures were derived from the Quality of Life in Adult Cancer Survivors scale Descriptive statistics and Pearson's correlation were used in the data analysis The Theory of Unpleasant Symptoms guided this research. Findings demonstrated that: (1) Young breast cancer survivors continue to experience significant symptoms many years post diagnosis. (2) The worse symptom experience reported was sexual problems. (3) Cognitive function, pain, sexual problems, and fatigue were significantly related to both positive and negative feelings. (4) Pain and sexual problems were significantly, but weakly associated with age at diagnosis. (5) Distress was more strongly associated with negative feelings than intensity for the symptoms of sexual problems and pain in the majority of YBCS. (6) Intensity was more strongly associated with positive feelings than distress for all four symptoms in the majority of YBCS. Symptoms lasting years beyond the time of diagnosis warrant early recognition to minimize the long-term effects of a breast cancer diagnosis or its treatment. Early intervention by health care professionals may minimize escalation of the symptom(s) and/or their relationship to negative and positive feelings Nurses, who are often the first health care professionals to whom YBCS can report problematic symptoms, play an integral role in designing interventions tailored to these young women.