The 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. They also had been treated in community settings -- where 80 percent of people with cancer are treated in the United States -- as opposed to academic medical centers. This group best represents the typical experience of cancer survivors around the country, Wagner said.
The most common symptoms reported by survivors were fatigue (16 percent), disturbed sleep (15 percent), cognitive difficulties (13 percent) and pain (13 percent.)
Survivors need education programs for transitioning from treatment to life as a cancer survivor, and this education should include skills for managing these difficult and chronic symptoms, Wagner said. Medical providers also need to be educated about survivors' lingering symptoms.
"It is acceptable for someone actively going through cancer treatment to have pain medications, but when they transition to being survivors, that acceptance goes away," Wagner said. "If they ask for pain medication again, doctors may worry that they are getting addicted."
The study also pointed out the need to develop better ways to address sleep problems, fatigue and lasting difficulties with memory and concentration. Non-drug interventions for improving sleep are effective, Wagner said, and researchers need to tailor these for cancer survivors.
Exercise is the most effective weapon against cancer-related fatigue, but it's challenging to adhere to an exercise regime when you don't feel well. "We need to see how we can be more effective in promoting physical activity among survivors," Wagner said.
Researchers also documented any treatment interventions for study participants' symptoms and then repeated an assessment of the symptoms four weeks later.'/>"/>
|Contact: Marla Paul|