Regular symptom check-ins and early survivorship education with a nurse can improve breast cancer survivors’ quality of life, fear of recurrence, and mental health, as compared to standard physician follow-up, researchers reported in study results presented at the 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

From January 2017 to January 2019, researchers randomized 503 patients who were completing breast cancer treatment into two groups. In the intervention group (n = 251), patients had three to five self-management visits with a nurse in the first six months of follow-up and nurse navigation assessment and referral for symptoms during the three-year follow-up. The control group (n = 252) involved standard visits with an oncologist every six months for three years.

At two years, the researchers found that patients in the intervention group had a mean health-related quality of life score of 75.69 compared to 71.26 in the control group. Patients in the intervention group also had less fear of recurrence, anxiety, and depression. “Furthermore, patients in the intervention group had fewer physician consultations but more nurse contacts and an unchanged diagnostic imaging pattern,” they said.

“The study suggests a new strategy for follow-up after early breast cancer providing significant improvements in [health-related quality of life], fear of recurrence, anxiety, and depression without inflicting extra expenses to the healthcare system,” the researchers concluded. The results of the study illustrate how nurse-led interventions and individualized care combined with standard follow-up can greatly benefit patients and reduce costs.

ONS’s Breast Cancer, Nurse Navigation, and Survivorship Learning Libraries offer a comprehensive list of resources that can help you give your patients with breast cancer individualized survivorship care.