Women with early-stage invasive breast cancer report substantial treatment-associated toxicities and related burden, more than what previously has been reported, according to research published in Cancer. Researchers report that clinicians may want to start collecting toxicity data routinely and offering early interventions.1

In the current study, nearly half of women treated for early-stage disease reported at least 1 treatment-related side effect that was severe or very severe. Side effects led to additional doctor’s appointments, trips to the emergency room, delays in treatment, and reduced dosages.

Researchers surveyed 1945 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. All the women were surveyed an average of 7 months after diagnosis and asked to rate the severity of 7 common side effects (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, pain, arm swelling, shortness of breath, and breast skin irritation).

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Overall, 93% of women said they experienced at least 1 of the 7 side effects, with 45% rating it severe or very severe. Pain, skin irritation, and constipation were most frequently severe or very severe. Most patients sought help for side effects during routine doctor’s appointments, but 9% scheduled an additional appointment, and 5% went to an emergency department or hospital.

Women who had both chemotherapy and radiation treatment were 30% more likely to report a severe side effect compared to women who had only one of those treatments. Women who had double mastectomy were twice as likely as those who had lumpectomy to report severe or very severe pain.


1. Friese CR, Harrison JM, Janz NK, et al. Treatment-associated toxicities reported by patients with early-stage invasive breast cancer. Cancer. 2017 Jan 24. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30547 [Epub ahead of print]