OBJECTIVES: To examine the toxicity experienced by a cohort of older women receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer and the longitudinal effect on their functional status and quality of life (QOL).
DESIGN: A geriatric assessment measuring functional status, comorbidity, mood, nutritional status, and QOL was performed before chemotherapy, at the end of chemotherapy, and 6 months later.
SETTING: This prospective longitudinal study was conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York.
PARTICIPANTS: Fifty patients aged 65 and older with Stage I to III breast cancer receiving any adjuvant chemotherapy; 49 were evaluable.
MEASUREMENTS: The chemotherapy regimen and the toxicity to chemotherapy were recorded. A geriatric assessment was performed before the start of chemotherapy, on completion of chemotherapy, and 6 months after completion of chemotherapy. QOL testing was performed at the same times.
RESULTS: Patients (mean age 68, range 65–84) received an anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimen (n=15) or cyclophosphamide 600 mg/m2 intravenously (IV), methotrexate 40 mg/m2 IV, 5-fluorouracil 600 mg/m2 IV every 3 weeks for eight cycles (n=34). Grade 3 or 4 toxicity occurred in 53% (n=26), hematological toxicity in 27% (n=13), and nonhematological toxicity in 31% (n=15). Despite toxicity, there was no significant longitudinal change in functional status or QOL.
CONCLUSION: Despite toxicity from adjuvant chemotherapy, this cohort of relatively young older patients maintained their functional status and QOL from before chemotherapy to 6 months postchemotherapy. Subtle changes in higher-order functioning would require assessment using different geriatric assessment tools.