• breast cancer;
  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • psychosocial;
  • regret;
  • survivorship


Objective: The study addresses: (1) what women regret about their breast cancer treatment 5 years later, and (2) what characteristics of disease and treatment predict post-treatment regret.

Method: Interviews were conducted with breast cancer survivors in the San Francisco Bay Area. Participants were interviewed following diagnosis. Five years later, women were asked whether they had any regrets about their cancer treatment (N=449). Qualitative analysis was used to identify regret content, and logistic regression was used to determine what characteristics of treatment predicted regret.

Results: Forty two point five percent women in the sample regretted some aspect of the treatment. The most common regrets were primary surgery (24.1%), chemotherapy and/or radiation (21.5%), reconstruction (17.8%), and problems with providers (13.1%). In addition, women regretted inactions (59.2%) (actions that they did not take) more than actions that they did take (30.4%). This represents a novel finding in the study of post-treatment regret, which has largely focused on regrets over actions. Quantitative analysis revealed that women who were anxious about the future (OR=1.32; p=0.03) or had problems communicating with physicians (OR=1.26; p=0.02) during treatment were more likely to express regret 5 years later. In addition, women with new or recurrent cancers 5 years later were significantly more likely to regret some aspect of their primary treatment (OR=5.81; p<0.001).

Conclusion: This research supports addressing the psychosocial aspects of cancer care and improving physician-patient communication. Evidence is also provided for addressing the unique emotional needs of women with recurrent cancers, who may experience an undue burden of regret. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.