Chemo May Reduce HRQoL, Sexual Function in Patients with Breast Cancer

Researchers observed significant changes in health-related quality of life (HRQoL), depression, and sexual function among patients with breast cancer receiving chemotherapy, according to a study published online ahead of print in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.1

For the prospective study, researchers in Germany sought to assess the influence of chemotherapy for breast cancer on women's HRQoL, mental status, and sexual function. They enrolled 79 patients, of which 63.3% were premenopausal. Participants completed validated questionnaires on the 3 domains, before, during, at the end, and 6 months after chemotherapy.

Results showed that sexual activity decreased from 71.9% before chemotherapy to a minimum of 47% at the end of chemotherapy. Researchers observed a similar effect for both pleasure and discomfort.

In regard to mental status, the investigators observed the highest depression values at the beginning of chemotherapy, with spontaneous improvement in numerous patients over the course of treatment. Researchers also found that HRQoL and global health status both increased 6 months after breast cancer therapy.

Of note, changes for nearly all parameters were more prominent in premenopausal patients than in postmenopausal patients, suggesting that special attention need to be paid to those who are premenopausal.

“The knowledge of effective recovery and spontaneous improvement of HRQoL in spite of still impaired sexuality are important information in counseling both pre- and postmenopausal patients with diagnosis of breast cancer prior to upcoming therapy,” the investigators conclude.


Farthmann J, Hanjalic-Beck A, Veit J, et al. The impact of chemotherapy for breast cancer on sexual function and health-related quality of life [published online ahead of print January 4, 2016]. Supp Care Cancer. doi:10.1007/s00520-015-3073-2.

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