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Bloom Awarded $1.7 Million for Breast Cancer Survivor Research

by Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs
posted October 7, 1998

Professor of Public Health Joan Bloom has been awarded the largest of three major federal grants to study the long-term psychological and physical well- being of young breast cancer survivors.

Bloom will receive $1.7 million over four years to follow up on changes in the lives of 336 Bay Area women under age 50 who were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1994.

The 336 women in the Bloom study have lived almost five years after treatment and have joined the growing ranks of breast cancer survivors -- an estimated two million women. The survival rate for younger breast cancer patients has climbed from 76 percent to 81 percent in the past two decades, marking a shift from emphasizing treatment strategies to living with the consequences of the disease.

Bloom's collaborators in the study include researchers at the Northern California Cancer Center, Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco, and Kaiser Permanente. They will begin interviews with the women in January and conclude them by the end of 1999.

The sample is of particular interest because it represents nearly all women under age 50 diagnosed with breast cancer during a seven-month period in five Bay Area counties: San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco.

This unusually complete group provides an excellent baseline from which to evaluate changes in the lives of survivors, said Bloom. Very little is known about the long-term well-being of breast cancer survivors and even less about the younger, under-50 group, she said.

Bloom's follow-up interviews with the 336 women will track changes in five areas of their lives:

• Marital status, intimacy and sexual relationships.

• Relationships with spouses, children and other family members.

• Treatment consequences, such as breast reconstruction and sudden menopause.

• Work-related issues, including evidence of job discrimination or problems getting health insurance.

• Quality of life at both the physical and mental levels, including spirituality.

Past research has indicated that the acute emotional distress of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment fades after a year, but that psychological issues concerning sexuality and body image increase with time. Other research, however, suggests that long-term survivors recover their enjoyment of life and may even experience positive psychological outcomes from the trauma.

Results from the Bloom study should go far toward providing answers and guidance for breast cancer survivors.


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