Many cancer survivors suffer moderate to severe problems with pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and concentration even three to five years after treatment has ended, a new Northwestern Medicine study has found.
The study is one of the largest survivor studies ever conducted.
"We were surprised to see how prevalent these symptoms still are," said study co-investigator Lynne Wagner, an associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The persistent pain in survivors who are cancer-free and no longer receiving any treatment is particularly puzzling because good treatment exists, said Wagner.
"It seems we haven't come a long way in managing pain despite a lot of medical advances. This is eye opening. It tells us we need to be better in clinical practice about managing our survivors' pain," she said.
Wagner's study included a sample of 248 survivors of breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer. The survivors were primarily female and white, and most were more than five years post-diagnosis.
The most common symptoms reported by survivors were fatigue (16 percent), disturbed sleep (15 percent), cognitive difficulties (13 percent) and pain (13 percent.)
The study will be presented at the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago June 4.