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Heath-related quality of life in Spanish breast cancer patients: a systematic review

María Concepción Delgado-Sanz1, María José García-Mendizábal12, Marina Pollán12, Maria João Forjaz34, Gonzalo López-Abente12, Nuria Aragonés12 and Beatriz Pérez-Gómez12*

  • * Corresponding author: Beatriz Pérez-Gómez

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology, National Centre for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Avda. Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain

2 Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology & Public Health (CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública - CIBERESP

3 National School of Public Health, Carlos III Institute of Health, Avda. Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain

4 Consortium for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBER en Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas - CIBERNED

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2011, 9:3  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-9-3

Published: 14 January 2011



Breast cancer is one of the oncological diseases in which health-related quality of life (HRQL) has been most studied. This is mainly due to its high incidence and survival. This paper seeks to: review published research into HRQL among women with breast cancer in Spain; analyse the characteristics of these studies; and describe the instruments used and main results reported.


The databases consulted were MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Dialnet, IBECS, CUIDEN, ISOC and LILACS. The inclusion criteria required studies to: 1) include Spanish patients, and a breakdown of results where other types of tumours and/or women from other countries were also included; and, 2) furnish original data and measure HRQL using a purpose-designed questionnaire. The methodological quality of studies was assessed.


Spain ranked midway in the European Union in terms of the number of studies conducted on the HRQL of breast cancer patients. Of the total of 133 papers published from 1993 to 2009, 25 met the inclusion criteria. Among them, only 12 were considered as having good or excellent quality. A total of 2236 women participated in the studies analysed. In descending order of frequency, the questionnaires used were the EORTC, FACT-B, QL-CA-Afex, SF-12, FLIC, RSCL and CCV. Five papers focused on validation or adaptation of questionnaires. Most papers examined HRQL in terms of type of treatment. Few differences were detected by type of chemotherapy, with the single exception of worse results among younger women treated with radiotherapy. In the short term, better results were reported for all HRQL components by women undergoing conservative rather than radical surgery. Presence of lymphedema was associated with worse HRQL. Three studies assessed differences in HRQL by patients' psychological traits. Psychosocial disorder and level of depression and anxiety, regardless of treatment or disease stage, worsened HRQL. In addition, there was a positive effect among patients who reported having a "fighting spirit" and using "denial" as a defence mechanism. One study found that breast cancer patients scored worse than did healthy women on almost all SF-12 scales.


Research into health-related quality of life of breast-cancer patients is a little developed field in Spain.