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Experiencing brain cancer: what physicians should know about patients

12 Nov 2015
Claudio Lucchiari, Andrea Botturi, Laura Manzini, Marianna Masiero, Gabriella Pravettoni

During the last 20 years, numerous studies have highlighted the need to consider Quality of Life (QoL) issues in the treatment of brain cancer. However, gaps in scientific knowledge are still present as we have poor data surrounding the whole experience in patients and regarding their needs. The present study was aimed at evaluating QoL in brain cancer patients and correlated aspects. In particular, we aimed to assess QoL, mood state, and emotional issues in order to describe the patients’ experience to find out the critical aspects involved.

Methods: We obtained data from 85 patients during chemotherapy treatment at the National Neurological Institute ‘C. Besta’ of Milan, Italy. We used standardised questionnaires to assess different aspects of patients’ QoL. In particular, the functional assessment of cancer therapy-brain (FACT-Br) and the Hamilton scale were used. We also performed a semi-structured ad hoc interview in order to collect narrative data about patients’ experience.

Results: Our data depict a difficult adjustment process to the illness, even though positive elements emerged. Indeed, patients reported a satisfying self-perceived QoL, although specific concerns are still present. Further, even if many patients report depressive symptoms, only a minority have a severe condition.

Conclusion: Brain cancer may heavily affect patients’ QoL and well being. However, some element of the context may improve the adjustment to the disease. In particular, we found that most patients found psychosocial resources to cope with cancer and that spiritual well being also seems to play a key role. These issues deserve further studies in order to obtain significant clinical recommendations.

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