New prostate cancer survey examines range of factors affecting quality of life

A new survey of prostate cancer patients and survivors will look at the factors that contribute to quality of life.

Gabriela Ilie, research chair and assistant professor at Dalhousie University, is on P.E.I. to talk to the prostate cancer support group, as well as urologists and radiation oncologists.

"Patients with prostate cancer often have extended life expectancy," she said, pointing out that the study will look at what treatment does to that patient's quality of life.

"Hence the quality of life effects of different treatment options, contemporary forms of treatment, is a central consideration for many men in their decision making process," she said.

'Cracks in the system'

Ilie said that while there are many advantages to the medical system in Canada, there are "cracks in the system."

"Our focus is on medical, functional type issues rather than really understanding the psycho-social profile of patients."

She said it's important to look at mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and elevated psychological distress and how they affect a patient's quality of life as well as the practical issues related to treatment.

"You can't just possibly look at just function alone without understanding how the psycho-social determinants of health affect the relationship between quality of life and survivorship."

Goals of the survey

Ilie said the program emphasizes the inclusion of spouses, children, socio-economic status and work environment in the research and could help develop new modes of care when it comes to prostate cancer.

"We hope to move more towards a model that takes those levels of analysis into account rather than focusing only at the relationship between functional quality of life and survivorship."

The survey would take the wide range of factors affecting the quality of life of patients into account and routinely monitor a patient's developments every three months.

She said the goal of the survey is to "keep the finger on the pulse of the well-being of men diagnosed with prostate cancer or survivors, and their partners."

'Stomping our feet'

Ilie said that after the survey has been running for a year she hopes to hold a public conference with patients, clinicians and researchers. 

The participants would be looking at possible recommendations or changes that could be made to the way prostate cancer is treated. 

Ilie emphasized the importance of treating each patient individually, looking at specific factors affecting their quality of life rather than just "medical, functional type issues."

"If we are going to stay at that level we're going to keep stomping our feet and we'll never get to the bottom of these issues."

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