INDIANAPOLIS Twenty-two physical symptoms associated with cancer symptoms often unrecognized and undertreated are prevalent in all types of cancers regardless of whether the patient is newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment or is a cancer survivor, according to researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University schools of medicine and nursing.
Common symptoms include fatigue, pain, weakness, appetite loss, dry mouth, constipation, insomnia and nausea. These physical symptoms are associated with substantial functional impairment, disability and diminished quality of life.
The study of 405 patients was reported in the Oct. 11, 2010, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Numerous physical symptoms, rather than just a few, were prevalent in patients with cancer and this prevalence did not diminish after completion of therapy.
"We found that regardless of where they are in the course of their diseases, many individuals with cancer have a high symptom burden," said Kurt Kroenke, M.D., the study's principal investigator and first author. Dr. Kroenke is a Regenstrief Institute investigator and a Chancellor's Professor of Medicine in the IU School of Medicine.
"These symptoms impact them at home and at work throughout their lives," he said.
Study participants, all of whom had pain, depression or both, experienced substantial disability, reporting on average 17 of the past 28 days as either bed days or days in which they had to cut down on activities by at least 50%. Almost all patients reported feeling tired (97.5%) and most (78.8%) were bothered "a lot" by this symptom. Of the 22 symptoms studied, 15 were reported by more than half of the study participants.
In spite of high symptom prevalence, the researchers did not uncover greater use of the health care system. There may be several explanations for this including patients' inclinations to focus on cancer treatment while wit
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Indiana University School of Medicine