GAINESVILLE, Fla. Due to improved treatments and technologies, more children than ever are surviving cancer. Unfortunately, about 70 percent of these children experience late effects from their disease and treatment 30 years after their cancer diagnosis, which University of Florida Health researchers say significantly impact their quality of life.
"The prevalence of these symptoms accounts for a huge variance in physical, mental and social domains of quality of life among survivors," said I-Chan Huang, Ph.D., an associate professor of health outcomes and policy in the UF College of Medicine and the lead author of the study. "If we think symptoms are the key to patients' quality of life, then if we can better manage their symptoms, we can improve their daily functional status and quality of life."
Huang, also a member of UF's Institute for Child Health Policy, teamed with researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis to conduct the study, which was published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The researchers analyzed data from 1,667 childhood cancer survivors who participated in a St. Jude study looking at the long-term effects of cancer survival. The researchers used a patient-reported survey to measure quality of life. A specific symptom scale was designed to assess toxicities related to cancer treatment, as outlined in the Children's Oncology Group guidelines.
The most common symptoms patients reported were head pain, pain in the back and neck, pain in areas other than the back and neck, disfigurement such as hair loss and sensation abnormalities.
According to the research findings, participants' ratings of their own physical and mental quality of life dipped lower and lower for each additional symptom they reported. Participants also reported more symptoms over time, with survivors reporting late effects up to 40 years after they were initially diagnosed with canc
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University of Florida