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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • rural;
  • quality of life

Abstract

Objective: To assess the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of regional and rural breast cancer survivors at 12 months post-diagnosis and to identify correlates of HRQoL.

Methods: In 2006/07, 323 (202 regional and 121 rural) Queensland women diagnosed with unilateral breast cancer participated in a population-based, cross-sectional study. HRQoL was measured using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy, Breast plus arm morbidity (FACT-B+4) self-administered questionnaire.

Results: In age-adjusted analyses, mean HRQoL scores of regional breast cancer survivors were comparable to their rural counterparts 12 months post-diagnosis (122.9, 95% CI: 119.8, 126.0 vs. 123.7, 95% CI: 119.7, 127.8; p>0.05). Irrespective of residence, younger (<50 years) women reported lower HRQoL than older (50+ years) women (113.5, 95% CI: 109.3, 117.8 vs. 128.2, 95%CI: 125.1, 131.2; p<0.05). Those women who received chemotherapy, reported two complications post-surgery, had poorer upper-body function than most, reported more stress, reduced coping, who were socially isolated, had no confidante for social-emotional support, had unmet health care needs, and low health self-efficacy reported lower HRQoL scores.

Conclusions and Implications: The results underscore the importance of supporting and promoting regional and rural breast cancer programs that are designed to improve physical functioning, reduce stress and provide psychosocial support following diagnosis. Further, the information can be used by general practitioners and other allied health professionals for identifying women at risk of poorer HRQoL.