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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • chemotherapy;
  • fatigue;
  • menopausal symptoms;
  • cognitive function

Abstract

Background: Women who receive adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer report fatigue, menopausal symptoms and cognitive problems. Here we compare assessment of these symptoms using self-report questionnaires and a researcher-administered screen of cognitive function with the experience of women as revealed in a semi-structured interview.

Methods: Twenty-one women who were receiving adjuvant chemotherapy completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Treatment-General (FACT-G) self-report questionnaire, and sub-scales for fatigue (FACT-F) and endocrine symptoms (FACT-ES). They were evaluated for cognitive dysfunction using the High Sensitivity Cognitive Screen (HSCS). They then completed a semi-structured interview, which explored the nature and severity of these symptoms and their impact on daily function.

Results: All patients experienced fatigue and most had menopausal symptoms. There was reasonable correlation of findings in the interview with FACT-F and FACT-ES scores. The HSCS revealed fewer problems than were reported by patients, and correlated with patient experience only for the domain of memory. Most patients noted adverse changes in other cognitive domains, especially concentration, with substantial effects on every-day function.

Conclusions: Women receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer have substantial problems with fatigue, menopausal symptoms and cognitive changes. Formal tests such as the HSCS may fail to adequately capture the perceived impact of symptoms. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.