Young Breast Cancer Survivors Face Psychological Distress A new study discovers that cancer treatments can significantly hinder the quality of life of younger breast cancer survivors.

Researchers discovered younger women with breast cancer experience a decrease in their health-related quality of life. They also may experience increased psychological distress, weight gain, a decline in their physical activity, infertility and early onset menopause.

The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in women, and is the leading cause of death in women under 50 in the U.S.

Researchers note that although the survival rate for younger women with breast cancer has improved over the last two decades, their cancer treatments, despite their effectiveness, can seriously affect quality of life and other health outcomes.

In the study, researchers sought to determine the impact of cancer treatment on the quality of life of younger breast cancer survivors. Patricia A. Ganz, M.D., and colleagues reviewed studies that focused on overall quality of life, psychosocial effects, menopause and fertility-related concerns, and behavioral outcomes related to weight gain and physical activity.

The studies were published between January 1990 and July 2010. Of the 840 titles and abstracts reviewed, they focused on 28 with the most relevant data.

Investigators found that overall quality of life was compromised in younger breast cancer survivors, with the mental issues more severe than the physical problems.

Depression was also a problem as young women were also more depressed compared to the general age-matched population of women without cancer or women over 50 with breast cancer.

Premature menopause, infertility and menopause-related symptoms were more common and contributing factors to the level of distress in women 50 or younger after treatment.

Weight gain and physical inactivity were common health outcomes in younger women, although exercise rates generally increased after treatment.

Researchers believe the findings demonstrate the need for personalized treatment for breast cancer, especially among young women.

“By tailoring [treatment] 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 younger women also provides a window of opportunity for cancer prevention and health promotion activities.”

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute