Breast Cancer Survivors Carry Optimistic Outlook On Life

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Breast Cancer Survivors

The majority of breast cancer survivors consider themselves stronger after having the disease.

However, the data also suggest women's knowledge about actions they can take to lessen the likelihood of recurrence is surprisingly low.

The survey, which was commissioned by AstraZeneca and conducted by Harris Interactive, consisted of interviews with 543 women in the United States who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The vast majority (92 percent) of these women reported a positive change in their lifestyles since being diagnosed with the disease and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they are hopeful and optimistic about the future. Nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) said that having breast cancer made them a stronger person and about four in five (83 percent) said they were better able to put their lives in perspective. Due to the significant focus on early detection and recent medical and scientific advances, women are surviving breast cancer, remaining disease-free and living longer and healthier lives.

The survey also showed that breast cancer survivors are more likely to identify a great deal with other women who have had the disease (66 percent) than with people of the same ethnic/racial background (41 percent) or religious beliefs (40 percent). The survivorship community continues to flourish with more than 2.3 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today, making this the largest group of cancer survivors.(1)

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Interestingly, the same survey results also suggest that there may be a "disconnect" with information regarding the chances of breast cancer returning. While the majority (78 percent) of women who have had breast cancer are concerned about recurrence, 30 percent don't believe and 23 percent aren't sure there is anything they can do to lessen the likelihood of a breast cancer recurrence and only about half (55 percent) have spoken to their doctor about recurrence. The survey suggests that more action and education is needed about the many ways, such as healthier eating, reducing stress and taking hormonal therapy, women can help reduce the risk of recurrence.

"For most women, a diagnosis of breast cancer has a significant impact on their lifestyle and the way they monitor their health. We want to support all women who have had breast cancer in getting the best information available to help them remain disease-free for as long as possible," said Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, executive director of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a nonprofit organization based outside of Philadelphia. "We strongly encourage women who have had breast cancer and their loved ones to speak with their health care professionals to obtain the facts."

According to the survey, more breast cancer survivors (72 percent) said they relied heavily on their doctors or health professionals in their path to recovery than said they relied on either friends (67 percent) or spouse (52 percent). The majority of respondents, 89 percent, said that they are somewhat involved/not involved in a breast cancer survivor community, and thus might lack the support and access to timely information that they need.

The majority (87 percent) of breast cancer survivors surveyed said having the disease made them a stronger person, and 63 percent of all respondents are hopeful and optimistic about the future.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of AstraZeneca between April 17 and 30, 2007 among 555 U.S. women ages 18 and older who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. All figures presented here reflect the responses of women who are now free from breast cancer or currently have Stage 0 to IIIA breast cancer (excluding those with Stage IIIB and Stage IV breast cancer). Figures for age, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 555, one could say with a ninety-five percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- 6.5 percentage points. Sampling error for data based on sub-samples would be higher and would vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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