Cancer burden seen even many years after diagnosis

August 31, 2004

Compared with people who have never been diagnosed with cancer, cancer survivors experience lower quality of life, more lost productivity, and more health limitations, even among those who have survived more than 10 years after diagnosis, according to a new study in the September 1 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the United States, more than one million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and that number is expected to double by 2050 as the population increases and ages. In addition, as survival improves for many cancers, the number of cancer survivors is also likely to increase. However, there are few estimates available of the long-term burden of illness that occurs in addition to the cost of medical care associated with being a cancer survivor.

To better estimate the burden of surviving cancer, Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues from NCI and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed data collected in the 2000 National Health Interview Survey, an annual survey that asks respondents questions about their lives and health. The researchers analyzed responses from more than 1,800 cancer survivors and nearly 5,500 control subjects who were matched for age, sex, and level of education.

Cancer survivors had a lower quality of life, more lost productivity, and more health limitations than the control subjects, and this high level of burden was seen even beyond 10 years after their diagnosis. While these differences existed across all tumor sites, survivors of cancers that typically have shorter survival times, such as lung cancer, reported a greater level of burden from their disease compared with survivors of breast, colorectal, prostate, and other cancers. The authors suggest that this difference may reflect a greater proportion of people with cancers that typically have shorter survival times being more likely to have metastatic or, at least, active cancer.

"[C]ancer survivors had poorer health outcomes than did similar individuals without cancer, across burden measures. The decrements were consistent in individuals with different tumors and in individuals across multiple periods following diagnosis," the authors write. "Improved measurement of long-term burden of illness and particularly lost productivity will be important for future prospective research for cancer and other chronic diseases."
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Contacts:
  • National Cancer Institute Press Office, 301-496-6641, NCIPressofficers@mail.nih.gov
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Press Office, 301-427-1364

    Citation: Yabroff KR, Lawrence WF, Clauser S, Davis WW, Brown ML. Burden of Illness in Cancer Survivors: Findings From a Population-Based National Sample. J Natl Cancer Inst 2004;96:1322-1330.

    Note: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute is published by Oxford University Press and is not affiliated with the National Cancer Institute. Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage. Visit the Journal online at http://jncicancerspectrum.oupjournals.org/.

    Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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