Somatic Symptom Burden High in Cancer Patients

Managing symptoms may improve quality of life, researchers suggest
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Regardless of cancer type or phase, there is a high prevalence of somatic symptoms in cancer patients with chronic pain or depression, according to research published Oct. 11 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Kurt Kroenke, M.D., of the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, and colleagues measured somatic symptom burden in 405 cancer patients to determine the impact of somatic symptoms on disability and health care use in cancer patients who are experiencing pain and/or depression.

They found that 15 of 22 somatic symptoms were reported by more than half of the patients and that the somatic symptom burden varied little across cancer types and phases. The mean Sheehan Disability Scale score, with zero being not at all disabled and 10 being unable to carry out any activities, was 5.4, and the mean number of disability days in four weeks totaled 16.9.

"The somatic symptom burden is high in patients with cancer who experience pain or depression. Given the strong association with disability and the high prevalence of many types of symptoms, recognizing and managing somatic symptoms may be important in improving quality of life and functional status regardless of type or phase of cancer," the authors write.

Kroenke disclosed financial relationships with Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Forest Laboratories.

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