Purpose of review
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer or breast cancer often face aggressive chemotherapy involving multiple treatment regimens. These treatments may be associated with significant side-effects that adversely impact patient quality of life. In this review, we will highlight recent research on side-effects of chemotherapy and the quality-of-life concerns of women with ovarian and breast cancer.
Adjuvant chemotherapy has demonstrated efficacy in the management of ovarian and breast cancers. In addition to physical side-effects, a subset of women receiving chemotherapy will experience significant cognitive dysfunction that adversely affects their perceived quality of life. Variables including disease response, treatment indication and extent of the patient's social support also influence quality-of-life ratings.
Although prolongation of survival remains the primary goal of chemotherapy, the palliation of symptoms and preservation of quality of life are also important treatment considerations. Chemotherapy may be associated with nausea, vomiting, hair loss, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue, changes in sexual functioning and reductions in quality-of-life ratings. Although rare to date, prospective, randomized, longitudinal studies that incorporate a pre-treatment assessment of symptom burden and perceived quality of life are necessary to define the severity and pattern of treatment-related change and subsequently guide intervention strategies. In some cases, quality-of-life issues may help to guide patient-care decisions.