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An illness with lasting implications

September 06, 2004|From Reuters

Cancer survivors have poorer health, lose more days from work and have a lower quality of life than people who have never had cancer, researchers have found.

Robin Yabroff of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality studied a questionnaire of 1,800 cancer survivors and nearly 5,500 people who never had cancer, matched for age, sex and education level.

They found that 31% of cancer survivors reported having fair or poor health, compared with 18% of those who never had cancer. Only 13% of cancer survivors described their health as "excellent," compared with 21.9% of non-patients, although a similar percentage described their health as "good" -- 33% of cancer survivors and 29% of non-patients.

"Survivors were more likely to have spent 10 or more days in bed in the last 12 months than control subjects (14% versus 7.7%)," the researchers wrote. "Cancer survivors were also more likely than control subjects to report limitations with arthritis or rheumatism, back or neck problems, fractures or bone or joint injuries, hypertension, or lung or breath problems than control subjects," they added.

But cancer survivors were no more likely to have heart problems, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety or other emotional problems, the survey found.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that 9.8 million cancer patients and survivors are alive in the United States, says that about 64% of adults and 79% of children now survive cancer for at least five years. A series of reports has found that the harsh treatments often needed to beat the disease can themselves have lasting effects on health.

The new study was published in last week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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