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Cancer Diagnosis May Tax Physical, Mental Health

Treatment, too, affects quality of life, studies show,,

TUESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- A cancer diagnosis can take a physical and mental toll in the years after treatment, a new study says.

Bryce B. Reeve of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and a team of researchers looked at the health-related quality of life of 1,432 people 65 years of age or older who were diagnosed with cancer of the prostate, breast, bladder or kidney, non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer or non-Hodgkin lymphoma between 1998 and 2003. Similar data was examined for 7,160 similar people without cancer.

Up to two years after diagnosis, those with cancer reported decreased physical health compared with those of the same age who did not have cancer, the researchers found. People with prostate, colorectal and non-small cell lung cancer reported decreased mental health compared with people without cancer, they noted.

"We expect this study to provide a benchmark for capturing the burden of cancer on health-related quality of life and an evidence base for future research and clinical interventions aimed at understanding and remediating these effects," Reeve's team wrote.

The study appears in the June 9 online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In a second study of prostate cancer survivors published in the same issue, John L. Gore, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues found that urinary incontinence was more common after prostatectomy than after brachytherapy or external beam radiation therapy.

Sexual dysfunction "profoundly" affected all treatment groups in the four years after treatment, the research team noted.

"These results may guide decision making for treatment selection and clinical management of patients with health-related quality-of-life impairments after treatment for localized prostate cancer," they wrote.

Dr. Pamela J. Goodwin and colleagues noted in an accompanying editorial that both studies add to the understanding of quality-of-life issues in cancer patients but that each has limitations.

The first study did not include younger people with cancer or specifics about which cancer treatments resulted in the most significant decreases in quality of life, information that people could use to make decisions about treatment, the editorialists noted.

In the second study, the researchers did not address multimodality treatment, a growing trend for those who have aggressive prostate cancer, and the impact on quality of life, the writers pointed out.

"Further research is needed to better understand the short- and longer-term impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment on overall quality of life, especially as screening becomes more common, our anticancer treatments improve and patients live longer after a diagnosis of cancer," they wrote.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on coping with a cancer diagnosis.

-- Jennifer Thomas

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, June 9, 2009

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