Mayo Clinic Cancer Center reports advancements and solutions for quality of life assessments

12/09/05

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center researchers recently published the first series of chapters in a two-part monograph discussing quality of life (QOL) assessment -- best practices, promising techniques and revolutionary applications. The monograph was published in the November-December issue of Current Problems in Cancer, with the second half to follow in early 2006.

"Quality of life assessment is integral to the successful treatment of cancer patients," says Jeff Sloan, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic oncology researcher. "While for many years clinicians have been collecting QOL data and using it in various ways, we now see a concerted effort to capture that information in common ways throughout the discipline. Our hope is that this series of papers will facilitate understanding of QOL assessment and subsequent use for improving patient care."

The authors define QOL as an overarching term referring to all aspects of a cancer patient's well-being, other than survival or tumor response. They tackle philosophical issues as well as issues of statistical relevance and data collection. Practical examples enable the reader to easily grasp the concepts they review or introduce. They review current understandings, recent advances and where QOL assessment discussion is likely to go in the future.

Issues addressed in this first of two publications include:

  • Optimal Timing for QOL Assessments
  • Combining Information Across Symptom Studies
  • Presenting Longitudinal Data
  • Incorporating Clinical Significance into a Study
  • Handling Missing Data
  • Quality of Life from a Patient's Perspective: Can We Believe the Patient?
  • The Impact of Quality of Life Measurements on the Patient
  • What Are The Future Directions in QOL Research?

Dr. Sloan and his co-authors say the need for accurate and complete QOL assessments that provide valuable health information must be balanced with the issue of time and mental burden on the patient required to complete the assessments. To be useful, they say that any means of measuring QOL must include the researcher, clinician and patient perspectives -- which heretofore have often been ignored in the quest for statistical information.

"It is as important to address the patient's feelings and physical symptoms as it is to attack the cancer itself," says Dr. Sloan. "We found that literature and anecdotal information supported this over and over again, and we tried to answer some of the concerns and questions that may have hindered clinicians' application of QOL assessments in the past."

Cancer survivors were included in the authorship of the series, providing the patient's perspective to show how integrating QOL assessments in the clinical setting will help clinicians fully address the needs of each patient. "It is wonderful to see more and more research and practical application of QOL assessments," says Wayland Eppard, bladder cancer survivor and patient advocate for the North Central Cancer Treatment Group. "I hope that doctors will be able to use this monograph to provide more personalized care for their patients."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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