Cancer survivorship research must look at quality of life

October 28, 2011

TAMPA, Fla. -- Assessing the quality of life experienced by cancer survivors is becoming increasingly important, say researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. Such an assessment has a number of important applications when doing research on cancer survivorship, but just how to measure quality of life for cancer survivors is still being developed.

"Assessment of quality of life in cancer patients can be tailored through the use of measures specific to a particular disease, treatment, or end point on the cancer continuum," said study authors Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., and Heather S. Jim, Ph.D., of Moffitt's Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior. They published their conclusions in a recent issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (2011; 20:2035-2041).

The authors identify strategies and priorities for quality of life research with cancer survivors. For example, observational studies can generate data on the nature and extent of problems experienced by cancer survivors in relation to their type of disease and treatment received, as well as the time elapsed since treatment was completed.

"This information can be used to inform patients of the expected consequences of specific treatments and to help identify their rehabilitative needs," said Jacobsen. "Similarly, the outcomes of clinical trials that include quality of life as an endpoint in studies can be useful in identifying which treatments yield the best quality of life for cancer survivors."

In addition, quality of life assessments can be used to evaluate the quality of care patients received.

"Quality of life is a multidimensional construct about functioning - from physical to social - and is most often assessed by self report, either by interview or questionnaire," noted Jim. "However, some research suggests that patients may be less likely to report poor quality of life in response to an interview as compared to a questionnaire."

In total, the authors evaluate almost 20 commonly used measures of quality of life for cancer patents and cancer survivors.

For example, the authors discuss the Quality of Life in Adult Cancer Survivors (QLACS) measure that is driven, in part, by the view that existing cancer-specific measures were designed primarily to capture the effects of diagnosis and treatment.

"These measures may not adequately assess problems that can persist long after treatment, such as pain, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, sexual difficulties and body image concerns," said Jim.

Greater consistency in quality of life measurement may be found in the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) initiative, the authors report. The initiative is designed to develop, validate and standardize item banks for measurement of patient-reported outcomes for a wide range of conditions, including cancer.

According to Jacobsen and Jim, too many studies are based on "convenience sampling" at a single recruitment site, and these studies often suffer from the limitation of being too small.

"There is a need for research based on larger cohorts of cancer survivors recruited from multiple sites, or by using population-based recruitment strategies," said Jacobsen.

The authors conclude by noting the "marked increase" in publications on quality of life for cancer survivors in recent years, suggesting widespread recognition of the value of such research.

"However, for the field to continue to progress, important issues still need to be addressed," said Jacobsen. "Most important among these is how quality of life is to be measured, in whom it is measured, and what uses are made of quality of life data."
-end-
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Follow Moffitt on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MoffittCancerCenter
Follow Moffitt on Twitter: @MoffittNews
Follow Moffitt on YouTube: MoffittNews

Located in Tampa, Moffitt Cancer Center is Florida's only NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center, a designation that recognizes Moffitt's excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt currently has 14 affiliates in Florida, one in Georgia, one in Pennsylvania and two in Puerto Rico. Additionally, Moffitt is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a prestigious alliance of the country's leading cancer centers, and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of "America's Best Hospitals" for cancer. Moffitt marks a very important anniversary in 2011 - 25 years committed to one mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Related Cancer Survivors Articles from Brightsurf:

Suicidality among adult survivors of childhood cancer
A recent study found that survivors of childhood cancer have a similar risk of having suicidal thoughts compared with other individuals, and they have lower risk of suicidal behaviors and suicidal death.

Prescription opioid use, misuse among cancer survivors
This survey study looked at the frequency of prescription opioid use and misuse among adult cancer survivors compared with individuals without cancer.

Supportive care to relieve cancer-related fatigue underutilised by breast cancer survivors
Cancer-related fatigue is a prevalent and potentially persistent issue among breast cancer survivors, which can prevent them from returning to their previous life well after treatment ends and they are declared free of disease.

Cancer survivors' experiences with financial toxicity
A recent Psycho-Oncology analysis of published studies found that few cancer survivors received financial information support from healthcare facilities during their initial treatment, even though cancer-related financial toxicity has multiple impacts on survivors' health and quality of life.

Survivors of firearm violence worse long-term outcomes than motor vehicle crash survivors
A new study led by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that 6-to-12 months after traumatic injury, rates of chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other poor physical and mental health outcomes were alarmingly high among survivors of firearm violence -- even higher than among survivors who had sustained similar injuries in motor vehicle crashes.

New international exercise guidelines for cancer survivors
For the rising number of cancer survivors worldwide, there's growing evidence that exercise is an important part of recovery.

Nearly 5.4 million cancer survivors suffer chronic pain
A new report finds about one in three cancer survivors (34.6%) reported having chronic pain, representing nearly 5.4 million cancer survivors in the United States.

Cancer survivors predicted to number over 22 million by 2030
There were more than 16.9 million Americans with a history of cancer on Jan.

Lots of patients with cancer, cancer survivors use but don't report complementary/alternative medicine therapies
This study used data from a nationwide survey to estimate how many patients with cancer and cancer survivors use complementary and alternative medicines (CAMS) in addition to or instead of conventional therapies, and how many don't disclose that to their physicians.

Cancer survivors see mostly positives in how they have changed
Two years after diagnosis, breast cancer survivors have four times more positive than negative thoughts about changes they experienced because of their illness, a new study found.

Read More: Cancer Survivors News and Cancer Survivors Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.