Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Life after breast cancer: understanding women's health-related quality of life and sexual functioning.



To describe the health-related quality of life (HRQL), partner relationships, sexual functioning, and body image concerns of breast cancer survivors (BCS) in relation to age, menopausal status, and type of cancer treatment.

Patients and methods

A cross-sectional sample of BCS in two large metropolitan areas was invited to participate in a survey study that included the following standardized measures: the RAND 36-Item Health Survey; the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D); the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS); the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT) Symptom Checklist; the Watts Sexual Functioning Questionnaire (WSFQ); and subscales from the Cancer Rehabilitation Evaluation System (CARES).


Eight hundred sixty-four BCS completed the survey. RAND Health Survey scores were as good or better than those of healthy, age-matched women, and the frequency of depression was similar to general population samples. Marital/partner adjustment was similar to normal healthy samples, and sexual functioning mirrored that of healthy, age-matched postmenopausal women. However, these BCS reported higher rates of physical symptoms (eg, joint pains, headaches, and hot flashes) than healthy women. Sexual dysfunction occurred more frequently in women who had received chemotherapy (all ages), and in younger women who were no longer menstruating. In women > or = 50 years, tamoxifen therapy was unrelated to sexual functioning.


BCS report more frequent physical and menopausal symptoms than healthy women, yet report HRQL and sexual functioning comparable to that of healthy, age-matched women. Nevertheless, some survivors still experience poorer functioning, and clinicians should inquire about common symptoms to provide symptomatic management or counseling for these women.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View