Levels of phsyical functioning reported by women aged 55 to 84 with incident breast cancer were compared to those reported by women of the same age without the disease. A total of 422 breast cancer patients, identified through the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System, were interviewed 3 and 12 months after diagnosis. Interviews with 478 controls of the same age, identified through telephone random-digit dialing, were conducted twice during the same period. At 3 months, patients aged 55-64 and 65-74 reported greater difficulty than controls in completing tasks requiring upper-body strength. Little difference was shown between cases and controls aged 75 to 84. After one year, patients aged 65-74 still reported higher than expected levels of difficulty in light lifting as well as pushing and lifting heavy objects. Among cases aged 55-64, only pushing and lifting heavy objects remained problematic. Estimates of the prevalence of physical difficulty will be useful in planning future breast cancer treatment and rehabilitation services.
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