Understanding key symptoms, side effects, and impacts of HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer: qualitative study findings

Nina Galipeau, Brittany Klooster, Meaghan Krohe*, Derek H. Tang, Dennis A. Revicki, David Cella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with breast cancer experience a variety of disease symptoms and treatment-related side effects that can adversely affect functioning. The breast cancer experience may differ across disease stages and biomarker subtypes. This study identified relevant disease symptoms, treatment-related side effects, and physical functioning impacts in women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+)/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (HER2-) advanced breast cancer. Methods: One-on-one concept elicitation interviews were conducted with 15 patients with HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer. Open-ended questions about patient experience with breast cancer and its treatment were drawn from a semi-structured interview guide. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, and codes were used to document and organize patient descriptions of their experiences. Coded concepts were defined, supported by exemplary patient quotes, and analyzed for frequency of mention and saturation. Five interviews with experienced oncologists were conducted to supplement the concept elicitation interviews. Results: The average age of the patients was 66 years. Most (53%) self-identified as White/Caucasian; 40%, as Black/African American. Patients were reported to have metastases to bone (87%), liver (20%), lung (13%), skin (7%), and lymph nodes (7%). The most frequently reported disease-related concepts were fatigue and lump in breast (47% each) and pain (40%), while the most frequently reported treatment-related side effects were hair loss (67%), fatigue/tiredness (47%), and nausea (40%). Patients identified 10 concepts associated with both breast cancer and its treatment, including fatigue/tiredness, shortness of breath, weakness, and nausea. The most frequently reported impacts on physical function included working around home (73%), walking (73%), and cooking (53%). The most frequently reported symptoms and side effects from the expert perspective included fatigue, pain, and hot flashes (n = 5 each, 100%), while the ability to work (n = 5, 100%) and walk (n = 3, 60%) were reported impacts, aligning with those concepts reported by patients. The resulting concepts were organized into a patient-based conceptual model. Conclusions: Patients have varied experiences due to HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer and its treatment, and commonly experience fatigue/tiredness, hair loss, general pain, lump in breast, and nausea, as well as impacts to physical functioning (specifically, activities of daily living and mobility).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalJournal of patient-reported outcomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Advanced breast cancer
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Impacts
  • Oncology
  • Qualitative research
  • Signs and symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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