Life as a survivor
By April Frawley
Due to improved treatments and technologies, more children than ever are surviving cancer. Unfortunately, about 70 percent of these children experience late effects from their disease and treatment 30 years after their cancer diagnosis, which UF Health researchers say significantly impacts their quality of life.
“The prevalence of these symptoms accounts for a huge variance in physical, mental and social domains of quality of life among survivors,” said I-Chan Huang, Ph.D., an associate professor of health outcomes and policy in the UF College of Medicine and the lead author of the study. “If we think symptoms are the key to patients’ quality of life, then if we can better manage their symptoms, we can improve their daily functional status and quality of life.”
Huang, also a member of UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy, teamed with researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis to conduct the study, which was published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The most common symptoms patients reported were head pain, pain in the back and neck, pain in areas other than the back and neck, disfigurement such as hair loss and sensation abnormalities.
According to the research findings, participants’ ratings of their own physical and mental quality of life dipped lower and lower for each additional symptom they reported. Participants also reported more symptoms over time, with survivors reporting late effects up to 40 years after they were initially diagnosed with cancer.
The next step, Huang noted, is developing a tool kit to help physicians use this information in practice to help cancer survivors improve their quality of life.