PHOENIX—Breast cancer survivors reported that decreased sexual interest was the symptom causing the most significant bother. This research was presented at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Connections: Advancing Care Through Science conference.

More symptoms are known to occur in breast cancer survivors compared with age-related peers. Among the 13.8 million cancer survivors in the United States, the majority are older than 65 years of age. Function is decreased by ongoing symptoms.

This research team conducted a secondary data analysis on a subset of 896 older breast cancer survivors from the American Cancer Society Study of Cancer Survivors II. Their symptoms were measured by a 30-item list, the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist, and a 4-point evaluation of the extent of bother. The research team calculated number of symptoms, symptom bother, and the prevalence of individual symptoms.

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The symptoms that caused significant bother for more than 5% of the survivors studied included decreased sexual interest (21.1%), low back pain (8.6%), difficulty controlling urine (7.2%), pain (6.5%), tiredness (6.1%), and lack of energy (5.7%). More than 80% of these survivors reported no bother from symptoms that included vomiting (97.6%), sore mouth (92.3%), nausea (90.8%), shivering (86.3%), diarrhea (82.8%), and weight loss (81.4%).
The researchers noted that the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist, which they used for symptom reporting, includes many symptoms that were not prominent in post-treatment survivorship. Survivor-specific measures of symptoms are needed.