following a year
‘More than 4 in 5 cancer survivors suffer from anxiety and a similar number have depression a year after diagnosis.’
"We urgently need new ways of
supporting cancer survivors and addressing wider aspects of well-being. Instead of just focusing on
clinical outcome, doctors must focus equally on quality of life for cancer
patients especially psychologically, financially and socially."
says lead author Shridevi Subramaniam, a research officer at
the National Clinical Research Center, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Kuala
Survey Among Breast Cancer Patients
The most frequently diagnosed cancer among women is breast
. About half of the breast cancer cases and 60% of the deaths occur
in developing countries. The incidence of breast cancer
has increased during last three decades in
It is estimated that one in 19 women in Malaysia is at
lifetime risk, compared to one in 8 in Europe and the United States.
Malaysian patients from the ACTION study (ASEAN Cost in Oncology Study, a third or 33% had breast cancer.
They were asked to complete questionnaires in order to assess
health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Anxiety and depression levels were also
included in the survey.
HRQoL may be defined as a patient's satisfaction with their physical health and mental well-being. It is an important end
result in cancer care.
The results showed that twelve
months post-diagnosis, patients' mental and physical well-being was low.
Survey Among Young Adults
The group of young adults and
adolescents do not expect to develop the disease at a young age. In a separate
on-going study, researchers focused on a group of young adults and adolescents.
The study included 56 patients with an average age of 28 years who were newly diagnosed with cancer.
They completed questionnaires
on occupation and lifestyle, problems around physical
symptoms, mental well-being and financial issues.
Results showed more than 37% of
patients in this group were suffering distress at diagnosis of
cancer. The top causes for
distress were identified as treatment decisions, followed by
family health issues, sleep and worry.
The young adults diagnosed
with cancer are at a higher
risk of suicide and so conducting studies
like this will help in
finding new ways to address this issue effectively.
Senior author Associate Professor
Alexandre Chan, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore and
Specialist Pharmacist, National Cancer Center, Singapore said, "The young differ from older people because they don't expect to
be ill, and certainly not with cancer. They're also at a stage when they're
facing many social responsibilities and family burdens. That's why they need
effective supportive care and help in managing the physical, psychological and
emotional side-effects that come with both cancer diagnosis and treatment."
Factors that Influence
Health-Related Quality of Life
Stage of cancer-
more advanced the cancer is, the lower the
Type of cancer
with cancer in reproductive organs like cervix of uterus had
higher sense of well-being compared to patients suffering from lymphoma. This
is because of the difference in severity. Cancer of
and cervix tend to spread slowly
over many years in comparison to lymphoma. The more aggressive the cancer is,
the lower the quality of life.
Age at cancer diagnosis - C
ancer also has a significant impact
on the lives and well-being of adolescents and
Factors That May Help
Improve Quality of Life
- Psychotherapy sessions and counseling improve
quality of life in patients.
- Emotional support - It
can help cancer patients manage symptoms better.
the right attitude - It may not be easy to stay positive all the
time. It is advisable to deal with symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear and
grief. Ignoring these symptoms and not sharing feelings with another person may
increase the loneliness among cancer patients.
Ravindran Kanesvaran, assistant
professor, Duke-NUS Medical School, and Consultant Medical Oncologist, National
Cancer Center, Singapore, said "There is a critical need to
find ways of addressing the high levels of distress among cancer survivors in
general as highlighted by the Malaysian study."
"The key message is to focus
more on supporting patients throughout their whole cancer 'journey' especially
in their lives after treatment," added Subramanian.
Researchers feel that the psycho-social impact of cancer clearly needs further evaluation.
This is to assess the impact on quality of life at the time of diagnosis as
well as throughout and after treatment.
Researchers reported their findings
at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia 2016 Congress in
- Most prevalent unmet supportive care needs and
quality of life of breast cancer patients in a tertiary hospital in
Malaysia - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762172/)
- Attitudes and Cancer - (http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/attitudes-and-cancer)