AT THE ANNUAL MEETING ON WOMEN’S CANCER
SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Fully half of gynecologic cancer survivors who are done with treatment and cancer free nonetheless report having moderate to severe symptoms 2 and even 5 years after diagnosis, Dr. Michelle Rowland reported at the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.
The most common symptoms in her cross-sectional study of 237 women with a history of uterine, ovarian, cervical, or vulvar cancer who were cancer free and at least 2 years post diagnosis were fatigue, insomnia, pain, memory impairment, and neuropathy, according to Dr. Rowland, a gynecologic oncology fellow at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.
She found the high prevalence of fatigue in gynecologic cancer survivors so distant from treatment particularly unexpected.
“The fact that 60% of women report some degree of fatigue 2 and 5 years out from their gynecologic cancer diagnosis was surprising to me,” she said in an interview. “Fatigue is something we usually think of as being related either to the treatment that they’re getting or to the cancer itself. But these women don’t have cancer anymore and are not being treated.”
The cross-sectional study included 237 patients who completed a self-assessment symptom questionnaire during a university outpatient gynecologic oncology clinic for ongoing routine disease surveillance. All were believed to be cancer free and none were receiving treatment 2 or more years post diagnosis. Seventy-seven of the women were 5 or more years out from diagnosis. The prevalence and self-rated severity of symptoms on a 0-10 scale were similar in the 2- and 5-year survivor groups.
One-quarter of the 2-year survivors reported having three or more moderate to severe symptoms as defined by a rating of 4-10. So did 29% of the 5-year survivors.
Three-quarters of women reported having one or more symptom.
In an effort to identify predictors of high symptom burden, Dr. Rowland and coinvestigators conducted a multivariate logistic regression analysis controlling for tumor stage, disease, site, race, and all forms of cancer therapy received. Prior chemotherapy proved to be an independent risk factor for high symptom burden at 2 years, while prior radiation therapy predicted high symptom burden at 5 or more years. Of note, cancer type was not predictive.
Roughly 40% of subjects reported currently being on medications for chronic pain, 11% were taking antianxiety drugs, and a similar proportion were using sleep aids.
Dr. Rowland concluded that long-term follow-up of gynecologic cancer survivors should include a symptom assessment. Survivor clinics, which are becoming increasingly common, offer a way to specifically address ongoing symptoms.
She reported having no financial conflicts regarding her study.