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Quality of Life

Breast cancer affects many parts of your life. You must cope with the emotional strain of the diagnosis and the challenges of treatment while also dealing with the stresses of everyday life.  

Even though your diagnosis may be similar to another person’s, your situation is like no one else’s. The way breast cancer impacts your life and your quality of life is unique.  

Find information on specific quality of life topics.

What is quality of life?

“Quality of life” is the term used to describe a person's overall well-being, including:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Ability to perform daily roles
  • Sexual function
  • Absence of symptoms (such as pain and fatigue)

Whether you are newly diagnosed, in active treatment or a long-term survivor, breast cancer can affect how you feel inside and out. You may have short- and long-term side effects from treatment as well as from the breast cancer itself. Other health and non-health related issues (such as financial concerns) can also impact your quality of life. Although you cannot get rid of all of these issues, there are ways to manage them and improve your quality of life. It is important to take care of yourself. You may even feel more in control if you address some of these concerns.

Quality of life related to diagnosis and treatment

In the first year after a cancer diagnosis and during the active phase of treatment, it is common to feel depressed and anxious [23]. Learn more about depression.  

Side effects related to treatment can worsen your quality of life. Once treatment ends, most side effects go away and you can begin to feel like yourself again. Over time, most people feel better physically and mentally [24]. In the meantime, there are many things you can do to improve your well-being.  

Follow the links below to learn more about specific quality of life issues related to diagnosis and treatment.  

Learn more about:

Quality of life after treatment

After treatment, most breast cancer survivors report having a good quality of life. However, you may have some long-term side effects from treatment, such as those related to menopause, fatigue and sexual function [25-27]. It can be hard to plan for or cope with these side effects since they vary from person to person. But, there are things you can do to ease some symptoms. Learn more about quality of life issues for survivors in the Survivorship Topics section.  

Learn more about:

Factors that improve quality of life in long-term survivors

Social support is linked to a better quality of life in breast cancer survivors [2-3,26]. Learn more about social support.  

Exercise can improve mood, fatigue and social well-being in survivors [28-30]. Learn more about the benefits of exercise after treatment.  

Quality of life issues related to metastatic breast cancer

For people with metastatic (advanced or stage IV) breast cancer, quality of life issues are especially important. Even when treatment ends, there are many ways to take care of yourself.  

Learn more about:

Positive effects on quality of life

Although breast cancer often has a negative impact on quality of life, it can also trigger a positive change in your outlook on life [31]. You may have a stronger sense of spirituality or faith and a more hopeful view that may increase pleasure in life [32].  

Being a survivor also puts you in a unique position to help others affected by breast cancer. After your treatment ends, there are many ways you can still be a part of the breast cancer cause through research, community work or advocacy efforts. Whether you enroll in a study or volunteer for an advocacy group, you can make a difference. Learn more about getting involved in any of these efforts.

Clinical trials

Research is ongoing to improve all areas of breast cancer care. New treatments are being studied in clinical trials. The results of these studies will decide whether these treatments will become part of standard care. After discussing the benefits and risks with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.  

BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen® offers a custom matching service that can help you find a clinical trial that fits your health needs. Learn more about this program or search BreastCancerTrials.org for clinical trials on quality of life issues.

Learn more about clinical trials.

Updated 02/07/14

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