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Quality of life predicts cancer survival, U-M study finds
Date:5/29/2008

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Head and neck cancer patients who reported lower physical quality of life were more likely to die from their disease, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The findings could mean that identifying patients with poor quality of life could also identify patients with particularly aggressive tumors.

"Low quality of life may have value in screening patients for recurrence. By identifying patients with poor quality of life, we may also be able to identify early on those who have particularly aggressive tumors," says lead study author Carrie A. Karvonen-Gutierrez, M.P.H., research associate at the U-M School of Public Health and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Results of the study appear in the June 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers surveyed 495 people at four hospitals who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer within the previous two years. Participants responded to questions about physical and emotional quality of life, including pain, eating and swallowing, speech and emotional well-being.

The researchers found that general physical health and quality of life issues were highly associated with survival. And in particular, patients who reported difficulty with pain, eating and speech were significantly less likely to survive. The researchers suggest that pain and declines in other physical quality of life measures could be a marker for cancer recurrence.

"Our findings validate the concept that doctors have long recognized: that persistent or increasing pain is a worrisome clinical finding. Perhaps in the future, quality of life data will be routinely collected in a standardized way, and trends in pain scores will trigger more aggressive examinations for cancer recurrence," says study author Sonia A. Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, associate professor of nursing at the U-M
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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