Symptoms, clusters and quality of life prior to surgery for breast cancer

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Aims and objectives: To examine the pretreatment symptoms and symptom clusters that women awaiting breast cancer surgery are experiencing and the impact of these symptoms on their quality of life. Background: Most women diagnosed with breast cancer will have surgery as a first-line treatment. The presence of presurgery symptoms may be significant in contributing to distress and impaired quality of life. While it seems that women with breast cancer may experience the symptoms of fatigue, pain, depression and sleep disturbance as a cluster, this has not yet been confirmed by empirical research in the presurgery time period. Design: A multiple-point prospective longitudinal cohort panel design is used. Methods: Presurgery symptoms and quality of life were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Insomnia Severity Index, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue, Brief Pain Inventory and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30(3). Results: Participants (n = 94, age range 30-92) experienced symptoms prior to surgery, with pain being a more prevalent symptom (35%) than fatigue (32%), sleep disturbances (25·5%) or depression (11%). global quality of life was significantly impacted on by fatigue and showed a moderate correlation with emotional functioning and a weak correlation with physical and social functioning. Hierarchical cluster analysis identified the presence of five clusters with symptoms present in differing intensities in each cluster. Conclusion: In this cohort of women, healthy other than having a diagnosis of breast cancer, symptoms were impacting on quality of life. It is evident that clusters of symptoms are present presurgery that must be assessed and managed. Relevance to practice: Healthcare delivery systems must ensure that early symptoms are addressed effectively in the presurgery period to improve quality of life and reduce adverse outcomes postsurgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2491-2502
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number17-18
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • Breast cancer
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hierarchical cluster analysis
  • Pain
  • Quality of life
  • Sleep
  • Surgery
  • Symptom clusters
  • Symptoms


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