Quality of life predicts cancer survival

May 29, 2008

Head and neck cancer patients who reported lower physical quality of life were more likely to die from their disease, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The findings could mean that identifying patients with poor quality of life could also identify patients with particularly aggressive tumors.

"Low quality of life may have value in screening patients for recurrence. By identifying patients with poor quality of life, we may also be able to identify early on those who have particularly aggressive tumors," says lead study author Carrie A. Karvonen-Gutierrez, M.P.H., research associate at the U-M School of Public Health and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Results of the study appear in the June 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers surveyed 495 people at four hospitals who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer within the previous two years. Participants responded to questions about physical and emotional quality of life, including pain, eating and swallowing, speech and emotional well-being.

The researchers found that general physical health and quality of life issues were highly associated with survival. And in particular, patients who reported difficulty with pain, eating and speech were significantly less likely to survive. The researchers suggest that pain and declines in other physical quality of life measures could be a marker for cancer recurrence.

"Our findings validate the concept that doctors have long recognized: that persistent or increasing pain is a worrisome clinical finding. Perhaps in the future, quality of life data will be routinely collected in a standardized way, and trends in pain scores will trigger more aggressive examinations for cancer recurrence," says study author Sonia A. Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, associate professor of nursing at the U-M School of Nursing and research assistant professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School.

"While patients are monitored and screened after cancer treatment, small recurrences of cancer may be difficult to detect, even with standard imaging techniques. But, for example, small islands of cancer near a nerve can cause substantial pain before the cancer is detected on routine examination or imaging scans," says study author Jeffrey Terrell, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School.

The next question for the researchers is to understand whether treatments that improve quality of life can improve survival.

"Although it is not yet clear how the association works between survival and quality of life related to head and neck pain, it is clearly advantageous to minimize pain for patients. And, if in doing that, the chance of cancer recurrence or patient survival is improved, the effort is worthwhile, regardless of why these factors are related. Patients want improved quality of life after cancer treatment—whether it be to improve survival or simply to improve everyday living and feel better," Duffy says.

Based on their findings, the study authors recommend routine quality of life assessments of patients with head and neck cancer, before treatment and again after six months, one year and two years.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: New talking therapy could help cancer survivors cope after treatment

Related Stories

New talking therapy could help cancer survivors cope after treatment

November 16, 2017
Even though cancer survivors may be in good physical health or in long-term remission, the impact of cancer and its treatment can be very difficult. The researchers hope that the new therapy will transform aftercare for those ...

Genes that hold the clues to bladder cancer and its treatment

November 13, 2017
Scientists have discovered the 'genetic signatures' of the most common form of bladder cancer - and it could open up the possibility of better-targeted treatment, according to research published today (13 November).

Cancer care that knows no boundaries—NCCN guidelines customized for use in Africa

November 13, 2017
The fact that you live in a particular country or community should not impact your ability to get good care for cancer.

One type of diet can add years to your life

November 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Obese people who follow a low-fat weight-loss plan could tack extra years onto their life, a new review of medical evidence suggests.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

The psychological impact of incontinence

November 16, 2017
We rarely hear or speak about incontinence. But the condition – the involuntary loss of urine or faecal matter – is frighteningly common.

Recommended for you

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

Computer program finds new uses for old drugs

November 16, 2017
Researchers at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a computer program to find new indications for old drugs. The computer program, called DrugPredict, ...

Pharmacoscopy improves therapy for relapsed blood cancer in a first clinical trial

November 16, 2017
Researchers at CeMM and the Medical University of Vienna presented a preliminary report in The Lancet Hematology on the clinical impact of an integrated ex vivo approach called pharmacoscopy. The procedures measure single-cell ...

Wider sampling of tumor tissues may guide drug choice, improve outcomes

November 15, 2017
A new study focused on describing genetic variations within a primary tumor, differences between the primary and a metastatic branch of that tumor, and additional diversity found in tumor DNA in the blood stream could help ...

A new strategy for prevention of liver cancer development

November 14, 2017
Primary liver cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and its incidences and mortality are increasing rapidly in the United Stated. In late stages of the malignancy, there are no effective ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.