Higher quality of life among woman with screening-detected breast cancer

Women who have had breast cancer, report a higher quality of life in the years after diagnosis if they have been diagnosed through the Mammography Programme than if the breast cancer was discovered because of symptoms.
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This is the main finding in a study from the Cancer Registry of Norway on associations between breast cancer treatment and women's long-term quality of life.

"The women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in BreastScreen Norway reported a quality of life level of 70 out of 100 possible points, compared to 60 for those who had breast cancer detected due to symptoms," says doctor and researcher Nataliia Moshina at the Cancer Registry, who is first author of the study.

The women had been diagnosed with breast cancer between three and 14 years ago. The findings indicate that the way breast cancer is detected can make a difference to women's quality of life in the long term.

The researchers also found that women who had never had a breast cancer diagnosis reported a higher quality of life than those who had had breast cancer at some point, with 80 out of 100 possible points.

The study is based on information from about 4 500 women aged 50 to 69 who have had and have not had breast cancer, and who in 2019 agreed to participate in a survey on quality of life.


Less treatment and fewer sequelae

Breast cancer detected by screening is often detected early and has not had time to spread to other parts of the body, while breast cancer that is detected due to symptoms such as lumps or skin changes has often developed and is larger at diagnosis.

Moshina and colleagues believe that more gentle treatment for women with screening-detected breast cancer is a likely explanation for the differences they have found.

"We found that women with breast cancer detected in the BreastScreen Norway had retained their breasts to a greater extent after surgery, and fewer had received chemotherapy and hormone treatment than those who had discovered the disease because of symptoms," says Moshina.

She says it is well known that breast cancer treatment can cause various sequelae, such as altered heart and lung function, chronic pain and fatigue, or depression and anxiety.

Less extensive treatment probably leads to fewer serious sequelae. Moshina believes this has contributed to the women's long-term quality of life being less negatively affected by breast cancer.

"In addition, studies show that women who choose to participate in screening generally have a higher health awareness and healthier lifestyle than women who do not participate in screening, and this may also be a contributing factor to the differences," Moshina points out.