Cancer Quality of Life Research = FAIL

Image courtesy of Flickr user millermz (CC)

—from the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual GI Cancer Symposium in Orlando

It’s not just researchers and physicans, who hate trying to assess quality of life for cancer patients.  It seems the patients hate it, too.

During a discussion of quality of life research, Dr. David Cunningham of Royal Marsden Hospital in London remembered one study, in which patients were asked what was the worst thing about chemotherapy. “The worst thing about chemotherapy for those patients was nausea and vomiting. Number two was finding a place to park their car, when they came for chemotherapy. Number three was filling out quality of life forms.”

For patients, it seems to be the tedium of filling out the many-paged questionnaires that makes quality of life research so unpleasant.  For researchers and physicians, it seems to be the nebulous nature of the research itself that makes it troublesome.  There’s no universally accepted definition of health-related quality of life for starters. Which assessment tools should be used?  What aspects should be included in the tools–emotional, social, and physical function and adverse side effects of treatment?  How do you tease apart the  impact of the disease itself and the impact of the treatments?  What do the measurements mean?

Yet, it’s a crucial area of research. Patients can spend several years–and even their last days–on chemotherapy.  While researchers often seem jubilant that a new treatment regimen can extend overall survival or disease-free progression by even a month or 2, does it really matter if the patient has a very poor quality of life on the regimen?

On the bright side, quality of life can be improved for cancer patients.  Parking is a different story altogether.

—Kerri Wachter ( @knwachter on Twitter)

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Filed under IMNG, Oncology

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