NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The way lung cancer patients feel around the time they’re diagnosed may be related to how long they survive — even after taking into account objective measures of the disease, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that newly-diagnosed lung cancer patients who rated their quality of life higher generally lived longer with the disease: typically surviving nearly six years, versus less than two years among patients who’d reported a poor quality of life.
And objective measures — like age, the stage and aggressiveness of the cancer and other health conditions — did not fully explain the connection.
Quality of life is a “complex construct” that includes a person’s feelings of physical, mental and emotional well-being, said Jeff A. Sloan, a professor of oncology and biostatistics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the new study.
But doctors can begin to get at the issue by basically asking, “How are you doing?” Sloan said in an interview.
“That can start a conversation,” he said.
Blood work and other lab tests are one way of seeing how a patient is doing, according to Sloan. But, he said, doctors have long been aware that two patients can look the same as far as objective cancer-related measures go, yet fare differently.
A number of studies have now shown that quality of life seems to affect the long-term picture for cancer patients, Sloan said.
So doctors at Mayo have begun routinely assessing cancer patients’ quality of life, and some other cancer centers are starting to do the same, he added.