Effect of perceived barriers to symptom management on quality of life in older breast cancer survivors

Hyun-e Yeom, Susan M Heidrich
Cancer Nursing 2009, 32 (4): 309-16
Negative attitudes of both older adults and healthcare providers about aging can be barriers to self-care in old age. The aims of this study were to (1) examine the extent to which older breast cancer survivors experience barriers to symptom management and (2) explore whether barriers influence quality of life. Three possible barriers to symptom management were examined: negative beliefs about managing symptoms, perceived negative attitudes of healthcare providers, and difficulties in communicating about symptoms. This study was a secondary analysis of pooled baseline data from 61 older (age >64 years) women who participated in 2 pilot studies that tested a symptom management intervention for older breast cancer survivors. The most frequent barrier reported was difficulties in communicating about symptoms with healthcare providers. Each of the barriers affected psychosocial, but not physical, quality of life. Barriers to symptom management may lead to poorer self-care of symptoms that can result in lower levels of psychosocial quality of life. Healthcare providers need to encourage older cancer survivors to report symptoms and worries related to their cancer diagnosis and should be cautious in expressing attitudes that could reinforce older adults' negative perceptions about aging.

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