Scoring Life After Cancer on a Scale of 0-100

Esophageal cancer patients can have quality of life issues

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Treating esophageal cancer is rigorous. Surgery can involve not just the throat, but the chest and abdomen. So how's life after such extensive treatment? Researchers wanted to know and found out.

Most people who undergo surgery for esophageal cancer do okay afterwards. They judge their quality of life as similar and even better than before the treatment, according to a new study.

But one in six patients says the quality of their lives has sunk dramatically, and these are the folks physicians need to pay attention to, the authors say.

"Get active to speed recovery after surgery."

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet studied 117 people in Sweden who had had surgery for esophageal cancer between 2001 and 2005. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to measure quality of life.

Questions covered a range of topics encompassing an individual's assessment of physical, social and emotional functioning, as well as symptoms experienced - pain, fatigue and eating difficulties.

For comparison, the research team gathered a group of 4,910 randomly selected people to answer the same questions. All the data was then re-calculated into a point scale - 0-100. High scores were best for functioning as were low scores for symptoms.

Researchers found that most people had much the same or better quality of life as before treatment. These scores were comparable to those seen in the general population.

The exception to this was one in every six individuals reported that their quality of life had worsened for the five years following surgery. These scores were significantly lower than the control group reported. 

Folks who fared well - 86 percent of study participants - scored physical function at an 87, close to that of general population.

However, patients whose quality of life suffered over the five years, gave physical function a score of only 56.

"The patients who show early signs of impaired quality of life should be identified and helped through a more intensive follow-up to avoid a persistently low quality of life," says principal investigator Pernilla Lagergren, professor of surgical care sciences at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. 

Clinicians can refer these individuals for specialized support for specific problems to minimize suffering.

This research was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Review Date: 
January 5, 2012
Last Updated:
January 6, 2012