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Published in: Journal of Cancer Survivorship 3/2024

21-01-2023 | Breast Cancer

A qualitative study of sleep in young breast cancer survivors: “No longer able to sleep through the night”

Authors: Youri Hwang, Samantha Conley, Nancy S. Redeker, Tara Sanft, M. Tish Knobf

Published in: Journal of Cancer Survivorship | Issue 3/2024

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Abstract

Sleep disturbance is common among women with breast cancer and is associated with greater symptom distress and poorer outcomes. Yet, for the unique subgroup of young women with breast cancer (YWBC), there is limited information on sleep. To address the gap in our understanding of sleep health in YWBC, we explored their perspective on sleep quality, sleep changes over time, contributing factors, and any strategies used to promote sleep. As part of an explanatory sequential mixed method study, we recruited a sub-sample of 35 YWBC (≤ 50 years of age at the time of diagnosis) from the larger quantitative study phase. These participants were within the first 5 years since diagnosis and completed primary and systemic adjuvant therapy. We conducted virtual semi-structured interviews, transcribed them verbatim, and analyzed data with an interpretive description approach. YWBC experience difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night, and not feeling refreshed in the morning. They attributed interrupted sleep to vasomotor symptoms, anxiety/worry, ruminating thoughts, everyday life stressors, and discomfort. The sleep disturbance was most severe during and immediately after treatment but persisted across the 5 years of survivorship. The participants reported trying pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic strategies to improve the quantity and quality of their sleep. Future research would benefit from longitudinal designs to capture temporal changes in sleep and develop interventions to improve sleep health. Clinically, assessment of sleep health is indicated for YWBC related to the prevalence of disturbed sleep.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Early access to sleep assessment and management, ideally before cancer treatment, would be beneficial for young breast cancer survivors. In addition, cancer treatment plans should include physical and psychological symptoms, especially those reported by women in this study: vasomotor symptoms, anxiety and worry, discomfort, and pain.
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Metadata
Title
A qualitative study of sleep in young breast cancer survivors: “No longer able to sleep through the night”
Authors
Youri Hwang
Samantha Conley
Nancy S. Redeker
Tara Sanft
M. Tish Knobf
Publication date
21-01-2023
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Journal of Cancer Survivorship / Issue 3/2024
Print ISSN: 1932-2259
Electronic ISSN: 1932-2267
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-023-01330-3

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