BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among women in Malaysia. A diagnosis is very stressful for women, affecting all aspects of their being and quality of life. As such, there is little information on quality of life of women with breast cancer across the different ethnic groups in Malaysia. The purpose of this study was to examine the quality of life in Malay and Chinese women newly diagnosed with breast cancer in Kelantan.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A descriptive study involved 58 Malays and 15 Chinese women newly diagnosed with breast cancer prior to treatment. Quality of life was measured using the Malay version of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and its breast-specific module (QLQ-BR23). Socio-demographic and clinical data were also collected. All the data were analyzed using SPSS version 20.0.
RESULTS: Most of the women were married with at least a secondary education and were in late stages of breast cancer. The Malay women had lower incomes (p=0.046) and more children (p=0.001) when compared to the Chinese women. Generally, both the Malay and Chinese women had good functioning quality-of-life scores [mean score range: 60.3-84.8 (Malays); 65.0-91.1 (Chinese)] and global quality of life [mean score 60.3, SD 22.2 (Malays); mean score 65.0, SD 26.6 (Chinese)]. The Malay women experienced more symptoms such as nausea and vomiting (p=0.002), dyspnoea (p=0.004), constipation (p<0.001) and breast-specific symptoms (p=0.041) when compared to the Chinese.
CONCLUSIONS: Quality of life was satisfactory in both Malays and Chinese women newly diagnosed with breast cancer in Kelantan. However, Malay women had a lower quality of life due to high general as well as breast-specific symptoms. This study finding underlined the importance of measuring quality of life in the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, as it will provide a broader picture on how a cancer diagnosis impacts multi-ethnic patients. Once health care professionals understand this, they might then be able to determine how to best support and improve the quality of life of these women during the difficult times of their disease and on-going cancer treatments.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.