Young Adult Cancer Patients Do Not Cope As Well

Quality of life decreased by more frequent pain, financial concerns

THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients age 40 and younger have more cancer-related pain and financial difficulties, and do not cope with cancer as well as older patients, despite having a generally better prognosis, according to research published in the October issue of Pain Medicine.

To attempt to better understand the impact of cancer-related pain on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) across the age spectrum, Carmen R. Green, M.D., and Tamera Hart-Johnson, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conducted a longitudinal study of cancer patients (Group One: 40 years or younger; Group Two: 41 to 59 years; and Group Three: 60 years or older) over a six-month time period. Pain, breakthrough pain, depression, coping abilities, and HRQOL were the measured end points.

There were no significant differences in pain severity between age groups, but the younger group experienced pain flares at a greater frequency (P = 0.05), and reported that pain interfered more with their mood. The oldest patients had better emotional functioning early in the course of the illness than did the younger patients, though at six months these patients were worse off physically. The younger patients also had more adverse cognitive effects at six months and reported having more trouble paying their health care bills than did older cancer patients.

"Overall, these results suggest that the youngest group is having the most difficulty coping with cancer, pain, or both in spite of potentially better survival odds," the authors write.

The study was funded by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan.

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