Young breast cancer survivors and the 5 year milestone

special_reportBecause of treatment advances, more and more women are living longer after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Young, premenopausal women may live for many years with a history of the disease. Yet only in the last several decades have researchers studied the emotional impact of breast cancer in younger women. 

I am now five years in remission from breast cancer so I was interested to come across this 2008 study,  Five years post-treatment, women under age 50 showed improved health knowledge and better exercise habits after attending three six-hour workshops, which addresses the needs of young breast cancer survivors at the 5 year milestone.

Led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco, and the Northern California Cancer Center, the study included 404 women age 50 and younger who were five years past their initial diagnosis of breast cancer and were cancer-free at the time of the study

The study design was based on a socio-educational intervention for 5-year survivors aged 50 or younger at diagnosis and test the hypotheses that women in the intervention group would show greater improvement than controls with respect to (1) knowledge of breast cancer, its treatment, and long-term health concerns; (2) lifestyle habits (i.e., exercise and diet); and (3) communication with family and physicians.

Study participants were assigned randomly to one of two groups: a group that received educational interventions and a control group that did not receive educational interventions. The educational interventions consisted of three six-hour workshops held in the San Francisco Bay Area over a three-month period. (After completing the study, the women in the control group were offered a one-day educational intervention.)

The workshops were designed to promote participants’ understanding of the physical, social, emotional and spiritual aspects of life breast cancer. They were based on information the researchers gleaned from focus groups and a survey of 185 women who had lived five years since diagnosis

The results showed that generally, women who attended the educational workshops reported an increased knowledge of breast cancer, its treatment and their own future health than did those who did not attend the workshops. In addition, the study showed that women who attended the workshops were more likely than the control group to report an increase in exercise but not significant improvements in diet. The workshops were shown to have no impact on improving communications with loved ones or health care providers.  The findings suggest that stronger, more focused programs are needed to break long-time habits around diet and exercise.

Source: LBBC

This report published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2008: 190-204.