Life After Cancer

Cancer treatment impacts both physical and mental health related to quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Yes, cancer is tough, and beating cancer is terrific, but what about life afterwards? Lingering pain, depression and discomfort can still bog down post-cancer patients.

Yes, cancer is tough, and beating cancer is terrific, but what about life afterwards? Lingering pain, depression and discomfort can still bog down post-cancer patients.

A recent study asked people about their health-related quality of life after beating cancer.

Responses to the survey showed physical and mental health related to quality of life were pretty low for some cancers.

The survey results showed that 25 percent of former cancer patients reported poor physical health and 10 percent reported poor mental health, compared to 10 percent and 6 percent of non-cancer subjects.

"Focus on both physical and mental health."

Kathryn E. Weaver, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, led researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Weaver said, “We did not have a good sense of how cancer survivors across the US were faring after their cancer diagnosis and immediate treatment.”

For the study, 1,822 adults who had beaten cancer were compared to 24,804 adults with no cancer history in 2010.

Age, gender, race/ethnicity, education and non-cancer medical condition were factored into the results.

Surveys were given to assess physical and mental health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in each of the individuals. Questions about depression, pain, fatigue, physical functionality and so forth were on the survey.

If these results were expanded to include all former cancer patients, estimates would show roughly 3.3 million have poor physical HRQOL and 1.4 million have poor mental HRQOL.

The type of cancer battled by a patient did influence physical and mental HRQOL reports.

Breast, prostate and melanoma scored similarly to adults without cancer for both physical and mental HRQOL.

Cervical, colorectal, blood and short-survival cancer reported worse physical HRQOL than adults without cancer.

Short-survival cancers are cancers with less than 25 percent chance of living beyond five years. Cervical and short-survival cancer patients reported worse mental HRQOL than adults without cancer.

Dr. Weaver said, “It is very concerning that there are a substantial number of cancer survivors who experience poor mental or physical health years after cancer.”

“I…hope our data will draw attention to the ongoing needs of cancer survivors—particularly those with cervical, blood and less common cancers—and to the importance of monitoring these individuals, even long after their cancer diagnosis.”

Seeking support for, or giving support to, people living in the aftermath of cancer is important for better HRQOL.

This study was published in October in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Research was funded by the National Cancer Institute. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
October 31, 2012
Last Updated:
November 5, 2012