Women with breast cancer are one of the largest groups of cancer survivors. This research examined whether breast cancer has a long-term impact on quality of life (QOL) by comparing 5-year disease-free survivors to age-matched controls and by comparing women who sustained a recurrence to disease-free survivors. Controls were recruited using the neighborhood control methodology. QOL (physical, emotional, social, and spiritual) was assessed during in-person interviews. There were no differences between disease-free survivors (n=267) and controls (n=187) on many indicators of QOL. However, survivors reported more difficulties with physical functioning, more physical symptoms, and more faith than did controls (all ps < 0.05). Compared to disease-free survivors, survivors with a recurrence (n=37) had a worse QOL on most indices, less positive affect, more general fatigue, and more intrusive and avoidant thoughts (all ps < 0.05). There were no differences between the two groups of survivors on indices of marriage, work experiences, or spirituality. These findings suggest that the QOL of long-term survivors who remain disease-free is comparable to that of women their age with the exception of physical functioning. Women who sustain a recurrence suffer an impaired QOL in some, but not all, domains. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.