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Most Breast Cancer Survivors Experience Lasting Side Effects

Last Updated: April 13, 2012.

The majority of breast cancer survivors experience one or more treatment-related side effects, and the proportion remains stable at six years post-diagnosis, according to a study published in a special supplement to the April 15 issue of Cancer addressing the physical late effects of breast cancer treatment.

FRIDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of breast cancer survivors experience one or more treatment-related side effects, and the proportion remains stable at six years post-diagnosis, according to a study published in a special supplement to the April 15 issue of Cancer addressing the physical late effects of breast cancer treatment.

To investigate the long-term prevalence of adverse events in breast cancer survivors, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues followed a cohort of 287 Australian women diagnosed with invasive, unilateral breast cancer for a median of 6.6 years. Treatment-related complications were assessed at six, 12, and 18 months, and at six years following diagnosis.

At six years following diagnosis, the researchers found that more than 60 percent of women had experienced one or more side effects which were amenable to rehabilitative intervention. Throughout follow-up there was a decrease in the proportion of women experiencing three or more side effects. From 12 months to six years, the proportion experiencing no side effects remained stable at around 40 percent. The only complication to increase in prevalence over time was weight gain.

"In conclusion, it is striking that the proportion of survivors who maintained one or more adverse treatment effects remains stable over six years of follow-up," the authors write. "Although additional research is needed to confirm these initial findings, the stability of the prevalence over six years lends merit to the proposal of prospective surveillance for adverse treatment effects in breast cancer survivors."

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