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J Breast Cancer. 2013 Jun;16(2):229-35. doi: 10.4048/jbc.2013.16.2.229. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Does chemotherapy really affect the quality of life of women with breast cancer?

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Department of Social Welfare, Duksung Women's University College of Social Sciences, Seoul, Korea.



The aims of this cross-sectional study were to explore and evaluate the impact of adjuvant chemotherapy on quality of life in breast cancer patients according to the survival time from surgery.


Completed questionnaires were collected from 534 women with breast cancer. Clinical and sociodemographic characteristics were reviewed and Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast cancer instrument, global quality of life, Beck Depression Inventory, and unmet sexuality needs were administered. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, chi-square tests and multiple analysis of covariance were performed while controlling for confounding variables.


Statistically significant differences were found between chemotherapy and no chemotherapy group on depression (p=0.026), unmet sexuality needs (p=0.010), breast cancer specific concerns (p=0.010), physical well-being (p=0.001), and emotional well-being (p=0.028). Chemotherapy effects also varied according to survival time since surgery such as for group 1 (<1 year since surgery), significant differences were found on Beck Depression Inventory (p=0.042), unmet sexuality needs (p=0.016), breast cancer subscale (p=0.004), and physical well-being (p=0.016) and for group 3 (>3 years since surgery) on depression (p=0.019) and physical well-being (p=0.028) respectively; however, there were no significant differences between chemotherapy and no chemotherapy group for group 2 (1-3 years since surgery).


As expected, breast cancer patients who underwent adjuvant chemotherapy experienced significantly worse quality of life than those who did not receive chemotherapy. Furthermore, the adverse chemotherapy effects on the quality of life appear to vary according to the time since surgery. These results suggest that health care professionals may need to address long-term as well as short-term chemotherapy side-effects and intervene accordingly to enhance quality of life of breast cancer patients.


Adjuvant chemotherapy; Breast neoplasms; Quality of life; Survivors

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