Side-effects burden, psychological adjustment, and life quality in women with breast cancer: pattern of association over time

Author(s): Longman AJ, Braden CJ, Mishel MH


Purpose/objectives:To describe the side-effects burden experienced over time by 53 women who were receiving treatment for breast cancer and to describe the association of side-effects burden with psychological adjustment and life quality.

Design:Data were drawn from the Self-Help Intervention Project (SHIP), an intervention study designed to test the effectiveness of nursing interventions for women receiving treatment for breast cancer.

Setting:Subjects were interviewed in their homes or treatment locations three times over a period of four to five months.

Sample:53 women randomly assigned to the control group of the SHIP.

Methods:The researchers collected data after treatment was initiated, six to eight weeks later, and three months after that.

Main research variables:Side-effects burden, psychological adjustment, and life quality.

Findings:Fatigue was the most problematic side effect over time. Other problematic side effects included sore arm(s), difficulty sleeping, hair loss, and skin irritation. Significant associations were evident for psychological adjustment with symptom extension and number of side effects at Time 2 and Time 3. Depression burden and anxiety burden were associated significantly with psychological adjustment at all three times. Overall life quality and present life quality was associated negatively with symptom extension and number of side effects at all three times. Fatigue burden was associated negatively with life quality at Time 2 and Time 3 with depression burden and anxiety burden negatively associated with life quality at all three times.

Conclusions:Over time, evidence showed that negative feelings, in particular depression burden and anxiety burden, persist. Depression burden and anxiety burden each were negatively associated with overall and present life quality at all three times.

Implications for nursing practice:A need exists for clinically individualized nursing interventions that will reduce the side effects burden of women receiving treatment for breast cancer. Interventions can do much to reduce the perception of illness severity so that psychological adjustment and life quality can be maintained.

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