SAN ANTONIO – Patients with metastatic breast cancer have significantly diminished quality of life (QoL) compared with those without metastatic disease and those without breast cancer, a study presented at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).1

“Historically, research efforts and dollars have focused on developing new treatments, education, and support programs for metastatic breast cancer, while less emphasis has been placed on tracking and understanding quality of life issues for this underserved population,” said Susan M. Love, MD, MBA, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, Encino, CA. “However, when faced with a metastatic diagnosis, managing and minimizing the collateral damage resulting from sequential and often continuous treatments is critical to improving quality of life.”

Therefore, researchers sought to examine the unique experience of patients with metastatic breast cancer and identify potential areas of critical need. Through the online Health of Women (HOW) study, which aims at identifying causes of breast cancer, researchers surveyed 11508 women, of which 3965 had a history of breast cancer and 7543 had no history of breast cancer. A total of 205 women were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

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Results showed that women with metastatic disease were significantly more likely to report digestive, oral, nasal, dermatologic, and ophthalmic symptoms, as well as fatigue, pain, and night sweats, than those with non-metastatic disease (P < .05). Patients with metastatic disease were also more likely to report neurocognitive symptoms, problems performing daily activities, and severe financial and career-related concerns (P < .05).

“Metastatic breast cancer participants were more likely than non-metastatic breast cancer participants to perceive communication with providers as positive, helpful, and strong (P < .05), and were more likely to attribute each symptom and concern to their breast cancer treatment (P < .05),” Dr Love noted.

However, there was no significant difference in the self-reported incidences of hot flashes, vaginal problems, or fertility concerns.

“Our next step is to validate the current questions with a larger sample size and use these data to develop a formal, qualitative questionnaire,” said Dr Love. “The combined data will guide us in developing a set of recommendations for the health care system to improve the quality of life for women and men who are dealing with metastatic breast cancer today, or who might in the future.”


1. Love SM, Bernstein L, Obidegwu A, Ottenbacher A, Eshraghi L, Clague J. Collateral damage from metastatic breast cancer – Preliminary results. Poster presented at: 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; December 6-10, 2016; San Antonio, TX.