For better quality of life, older cancer patients need more than just medicine

December 20, 2017

For better quality of life, older cancer patients need more than just medicine


For elderly patients with cancer - who often focus on making the most of the time they have left - financial stability, leisure pursuits and physical activity may have large influences on quality of life, a U.S. study suggests.

Almost two-thirds of the 15 million people living with cancer nationwide are at least 65 years old, researchers note in the journal Cancer.

For these patients, “many issues that frequently go unnoticed, such as financial hardship, lack of social support, and unaddressed symptoms can have a tremendous impact on how patients do and affect their quality of life,” said lead study author Maria Pisu, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The most important factors associated with worse physical quality of life included more severe symptoms of pain, fatigue, and disturbed sleep in the week leading up to the survey, as well as other medical conditions that patients had besides cancer, the study found.

When it came to poor mental quality of life, the main culprits were the severity of symptoms like fatigue and disturbed sleep, as well as a lack of emotional support or financial security.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how any given symptom or circumstance might influence quality of life for older cancer patients. Researchers also lacked data on spiritual factors that might influence quality of life.

Even so, the findings add to the evidence that cancer patients may need emotional, social or financial support, said Dr. Preeti Malani, a researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who wasn’t involved in the study. The study also highlights one aspect of quality of life that may be overlooked, Malani said by email.

“The authors note the importance of leisure time physical activity, which is not always the focus for patients,” Malani said. “There is so much related to the details of treatment that the question of what you are doing to stay physically active may get glossed over.”

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