Standardized quality of life measures have been developed and used primarily with Caucasian and middle-class cancer patients. This study assessed the ability of several widely used standardized measures to capture the concerns and problems of 89 African American breast cancer patients. Concerns and problems were assessed using both an open-ended format and standardized measures. The degree of overlap in responses from these two formats was examined. The most frequently reported problems in the open-ended format included physical (43%), financial (40%), and worry about others (30%). Overall, standardized measures had significant overlap with open-ended concerns and problems. The Cancer Rehabilitation Evaluation System-Short Form subscales/items were associated with corresponding open-ended physical, financial, and social problems (R2 change=0.07–0.16, p's⩽0.02), the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List-Short Form was associated with open-ended social problems (R2 change=0.11, p=0.004), and the Mental Health Inventory was associated with open-ended psychological distress problems (R2 change=0.08, p=0.01). One category of open-ended problems, worry about others, was not captured by standardized measures. With the exception of associations between open-ended physical problems and psychological distress measures, there were few significant correlations between standardized measures and dissimilar problem categories. These findings suggest that the standardized measures in this study reflected the concerns and problems of African American breast cancer patients. Additional studies are needed to evaluate the utility of other widely used standardized measures that have not been developed or standardized among non-white samples. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.