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Lynne Eldridge MD

Cancer Treatment Affects Quality of Life and Mood

By January 30, 2012

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I didn't need to read the results of a new study to understand that cancer treatment can affect quality of life. I've lived that statement.


But it's still important to spread the word. When it comes to treatment, our first thoughts are usually about what it can do for us. Get rid of cancer for good, or at least hold it in it's tracks for awhile. It seems almost taboo in a way to concentrate on what it does that casts a negative light. What it does that has a negative impact on our lives.

To look at that impact, researchers questioned 123 people who were going through chemotherapy for cancer. The majority of these people - 72% -- experienced side effects. And not surprisingly, having side effects was linked with poorer mental health as well. It seems that's a given. Who doesn't find it harder to maintain an optimistic mood when in pain or exhausted?

The conclusion of this study is that physicians should discuss the potential for side effects with patients. But whether or not that happens, there are things each of us can do to help cope with the side effects of treatment.

For example, fatigue was my most annoying symptom during chemotherapy. It was good for my oncologist to know about that symptom so she could make suggestions. But there were also things I could do on my own. I actually turned to an article I had written (before cancer and when I was more na´ve) on tips for coping with fatigue. And some of those tips weren't half bad. Asking for help was a big one for me. So was healing touch.

Have you had any of these symptoms? If so, it's important to share them with your doctor. But there may be simple things you can do on your own to ease your symptoms as well.

Photo: National Cancer Institute, Rhoda Baer (photographer)


Mazzotti, E. et al. Treatment-related side effects and quality of life in cancer patients. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2011. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1354-y. Online first.

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