Coping with Recurrent Breast Cancer: Predictors of Distressing Symptoms and Health-Related Quality of Life

Elisabeth Kenne Sarenmalm, Joakim Öhlén, Tommy Jonsson, Fannie Gaston-Johansson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Little is known about how postmenopausal women with recurrent breast cancer cope with distressing symptoms and which factors predict health-related quality of life (HRQOL). In the present study, 56 consecutively enrolled patients completed questionnaires measuring symptom occurrence, coping capacity, coping efforts, and HRQOL at the time of recurrence. Results from this study illustrate that women with recurrent breast cancer suffer from multiple, concurrent, and interrelated symptoms of illness, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Highly prevalent symptoms are lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, pain, worrying, problems with sexual interest, feeling sad, and dry mouth. The most frequently occurring symptom is problem with sexual interest, and the most severe symptom is worrying. The most distressing symptom experienced is pain. The majority of the women report 10-23 symptoms. Women who experience multiple symptoms also report higher levels of symptom distress. The experience of distressing symptoms is predicted by coping capacity, and the coping efforts experienced predict HRQOL. Patients with lower coping capacity report higher prevalence of symptoms, experience higher levels of distress, and experience worse perceived health, which in turn may decrease their HRQOL. To help women manage recurrent breast cancer, it is important to use multidimensional measurement to identify, evaluate, and treat distressing symptoms, and not assess single symptoms only. Care must be based upon the awareness of critical factors that exacerbate vulnerability to distress, as well as the ability to adapt to a recurrent breast cancer disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-39
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Recurrent breast cancer
  • coping capacity
  • coping efforts
  • health-related quality of life
  • symptom distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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