Reporter: Lauren Hertan
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: October 4, 2013
Presenter: Christine E. Hill-Kayser
Presenter Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania
Patients treated for lung cancer may have undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or some combination of the three. All of these can cause significant side effects during or immediately following treatment. However, as survival rates increase, long-term side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and cough, are being recognized. Consequently, attempting to minimize long-term side effects and maximize quality of life have become important factors in recommending treatment.
Through the OncoLink website, in partnership with LIVESTRONG, a survivorship tool for patients is available. This tool allows patients to anonymously enter what type of cancer they had, what treatments they received, and what symptoms they are currently having and in return they are given a survivorship guide.
The current study assessed a 299 lung cancer survivors who filled out this internet based care plan. In this group of patients, 56% of patients reported having surgery, 53% reported having radiation, 81% reported receiving chemotherapy and 23% reported having all three. The median time from diagnosis to filling out the online assessment was 1 year. In all patients, significant long-term toxicity following treatment was reported. Fatigue and shortness of breath were the two most commonly noted side effects in patients, regardless of the type of treatment they received. The third most common side effect reported varied by what treatment the patient had received and included numbness in hands or feet (chemotherapy), chronic pain (surgery), skin changes (radiation), and cognitive changes (all three treatments).
This study found significant long-term toxicities after treatment for lung cancer, regardless of modality of treatment. The authors note that limitation of this study was that patients who have developed significant symptoms may be more likely to go on the internet and use tools such as these, and thus it may over estimate the number of patients with long-term symptoms. Despite this, further work should be done to increase education of both patients and providers regarding these long-term side effects and investigate both prevention and treatment of these conditions.