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The impact of chemotherapy for breast cancer on sexual function and health-related quality of life

Farthmann J, Hanjalic-Beck A, Veit J, Rautenberg B, Stickeler E, Erbes T, Földi M, Hasenburg A.

 Support Care Cancer. 2016 Jun;24(6):2603–9



In this prospective trial, we evaluated the influence of chemotherapy for breast cancer on women's health-related quality of life (HR-QoL), sexual function, and mental status.


The patients completed validated questionnaires on HR-QoL, sexual function, and depression before, during, and at the end and finally 6 months after chemotherapy. Special attention was paid to possible differences between pre- and postmenopausal patients.


Between 2008 and 2012, 79 patients were enrolled in the trial (mean age 47.46 years). Premenopausal participants were 63.3 %. Sexual activity dropped from 71.9 % before chemotherapy to a minimum of 47 % at the end of chemotherapy. A similar effect was seen for pleasure and discomfort. Depression values were the highest at the beginning of chemotherapy, with spontaneous improvement in many patients during the course of time. HR-QoL and global health status both increased 6 months after therapy. For almost all parameters, changes were more obvious in pre- than in postmenopausal patients.


In a close monitoring, we observed significant changes in HR-QoL, depression, and sexual function in breast cancer patients. Special attention needs to be paid to premenopausal patients. The knowledge of effective recovery and spontaneous improvement of HR-QoL in spite of still impaired sexuality are important information in counseling both pre- and postmenopausal patients with diagnosis of breast cancer prior to upcoming therapy.

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