Symptoms profile among breast cancer patients accessing care at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital
Background: Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality among women in developing countries. Advanced stage disease with limited treatment options implies a significant symptom burden, which poses a challenge to attending health care providers.
Objectives: To determine prevalence and the severity of symptoms among breast cancer patients.
Design of the Study: Descriptive cross-sectional hospital-based study
Study Area and Population: Breast cancer patients attending the University of Ilorin Teaching hospital.
Materials and Methods: Breast cancer patients attending surgical outpatient clinics and those on admission during the study period were recruited. The patients completed an interviewer administered symptom assessment tool consisting of 32 physical and psychological symptoms. Demographics, cancer stages, treatments and referrals for palliative care interventions were obtained from the case notes.
Results: Sixty breast cancer patients were studied, and eighty percent (80%) of the patients had advanced cancer. The number of symptoms ranged from 0-18, and the overall mean number of symptoms was 5.5 + 4.4. The top 5 symptoms were; pain (63.3%), worrying (45%), feeling sad (41.7%), weight loss (46.7%) and insomnia (35%). Pain, poor body image, breast swellings were the most distressing symptoms. Five percent (5%) of the patients had referral to palliative care team.
Conclusion. This study showed that breast cancer patients manifest significant physical and psychological symptoms. Pain was the most prevalent and distressing symptom. Systematic symptom assessment and palliative care service provision are recommended for breast cancer patients with advanced disease.