Cancer Diagnosis Negatively Affects Overall Health

Cancer diagnosis may potentially cause a decrease in physical function and mental health.

A new study suggests that a cancer diagnosis may have a negative effect on physical and mental health of patients beyond normal aging.

This analysis, published in CANCER, included 921 patients with breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer and had Medicare insurance. Patients were matched to 405 control patients who did not have cancer.

Researchers analyzed Medicare surveys conducted in 1998 and 2001, as well as follow-up surveys conducted 2 years later.

Patient groups with cancer were found to have decreased activities of daily living and physical function compared with patients without cancer and, according to the study, patients with lung cancer had the greatest change.

Researchers also found that a cancer diagnosis increased the risk of developing depression, but had no effect on the risk of developing arthritis, incontinence, or any vision or hearing problems.

The severity of arthritis or foot neuropathy was also not worsened with cancer diagnosis.

"This prospective analysis used a propensity score matched control group to cancer cases that enabled us to tease apart the effects of cancer and aging in a novel way," concluded Corinne Leach, MS, PhD, MPH. "Decreased physical functioning among older cancer patients compared with older adults without cancer is an important finding for clinicians because it is also actionable. Clinicians need to prepare patients and families for this change in functioning levels and provide interventions that preserve physical function to limit the declines for older cancer patients."