Young Women with Breast Cancer: Preliminary Results from A Cross-Sectional Study of Unmet Needs



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Although women below the age of 40 represent only 4% of annual breast cancer cases, they experience elevated levels of psychosocial distress and lower quality of life compared to older patients. However, limited evidence is available about the ability to address psychosocial needs of young women with breast cancer (YWBC). This study identifies self-reported unmet needs of young breast cancer patients within the first year of diagnosis and examines differential rates of unmet needs by socioeconomic and clinical characteristics. A sample of 83 women recently diagnosed (within 1 year) with breast cancer between the ages of 18 to 45 completed an online 25-item questionnaire adapted from earlier studies of AYA patients and survivors. The survey assessed felt needs and service utilization of informational, emotional, and practical support services. Descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations were used to illustrate differential rates of unmet needs. Exercise/physical fitness, counseling related to sexual health, and work/school expectations were the most common service needs. Significant differences were detected by sociodemographic characteristics. Women with higher levels of education reported greater proportion of unmet needs for community programs, sexual health counseling, and alternative therapies. Similarly, elevated income was associated with greater proportion of unmet needs for sexuality and intimacy-related counseling. Age of YWBC and employment status were significantly associated with unmet needs related work and expectations. Young breast cancer patients have unique psychosocial needs that are currently being unmet. Therefore, continued identification of unmet needs is critical for future psychosocial interventions and care for YWBC. This project was completed with contributions from Amy LaMarca Lyon from UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.