When doctors look after cancer survivors, they are mostly screening for metastasis or a recurrence of cancer. However, mounting evidence suggests survivors often suffer from cancer treatment-related issues even though they are cured of the disease. What issues are these? And how can we help cancer survivors have a better quality of life?
Cancer Survivors and Long-Term Side Effects
As survivor rates for cancer patients increase, specific medical issues come to light. Many survivors experience long-term debilitating health problems. They may include fatigue, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. Furthermore, the research suggests that such adverse effects of cancer treatment can last for several years.
One of the most common side effects is cancer-related fatigue (CRF). This condition includes a constant sense of fatigue that does not disappear with sleep. Even though there are guidelines like Cancer-related fatigue: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis and treatment, they are seldom followed.
Commenting on this situation, the study author Dr. Martina Schmidt from the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg said.
“Despite increasing awareness of the effectiveness of mitigating measures like exercise to reduce fatigue, patients are still too often left alone to seek help for symptoms that cannot be directly addressed with medicines in the same way as something like pain, for which satisfaction with the support received was high in our study.”
According to Schmidt, to prevent patients from suffering long-term side effects after cancer treatment, the follow-up should be conceived differently.
“The first step should be to make sure that patients themselves are better informed about these potential issues early on, so they know that conditions like CRF are not only expected, but often manageable and that they should not wait for symptoms to disappear on their own.”
In the future, models of care for cancer survivors should be better planned and implemented. Also, more research needs to be done to estimate the real burden CRF has on the health system.
Relevant Research Articles
The findings discussed here will be presented by Dr. Schmidt and colleagues at ESMO Congress 2021. Below are research articles relevant to the topic.
Prevalence and Severity of Long-Term Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Fatigue Across 15 Different Cancer Entities
Knowledge, Perceptions, and Management of Cancer-Related Fatigue: The Patients’ Perspective