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Published on January 04, 2013

Working Together to Improve Quality of Life

“Recently, there has been a strong push for doctors to do a better job of communicating with cancer patients about what to expect as they finish treatment and transition to the survivor period,” said Kathryn Weaver, PhD, of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C., in a study published in “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.”

Based on the data, more than one-third of the 12.6 million cancer survivors in the United States have physical or mental health-related problems that jeopardize their overall health. Researchers estimated that poor physical health affects close to 3.3 million cancer survivors, and almost 1.4 million are affected by poor mental health.

The study found those who had survived breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma fared best, as their health-related quality of life levels were equivalent to or better than those of adults with no cancer history. Survivors of cancers with low five-year survival rates were more likely to have mental health issues that affected their daily lives.

Those who survived cancers with low five-year survival rate are more likely to report physical problems and 40 percent of survivors of cervical, blood and colorectal cancers report physical problems that negatively impacted their quality of life.

In general 25 percent of cancer survivors reported poor physical health and 10 percent reported poor mental health. These rates are higher than the 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, reported by adults without cancer.

You are not alone if you struggle with some of these issues. It is important to identify and discuss with a cancer care professional what symptoms or problems you are facing before, during and after treatment such as fatigue, pain, depression, sleep and cognition problems. The cancer care professional can then connect you with the right resources or discuss treatments options. This is a hugely important step in improving long-term physical and mental health.

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