Patients 60 years and older with gastrointestinal cancers who reported inadequate emotional support were more likely to have poorer physical and mental quality of life, although no effect was observed in overall survival.
Older adults with gastrointestinal cancers who had inadequate emotional support were more likely to have poor physical and mental health-related quality of life, in addition to depression, compared to those with adequate emotional support, according to findings from a recent study.
Of note, the patients with and without adequate emotional support did not have major differences with regards to survival outcomes.
“(Emotional support” is critical to mental health and quality of life in older adults with (gastrointestinal) cancers,” the researchers wrote in the poster presented at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting. “(The) lack of an association between emotional support and survival is surprising (given prior research).
Researchers analyzed data from 795 patients (median age, 68 years; 58% men; 74.6% White) aged 60 years and older with newly diagnosed gastrointestinal cancers. The most common cancers in this group of patients included colorectal (37.9%) and pancreatic cancers (30.8%), and most patients had either stage 3 or 4 disease (72.1%).
Patients included in this study completed a geriatric assessment at their first clinic visit. The main area of interest for researchers was emotional support, as reported by the patients themselves. Researchers also focused on other areas including physical and mental health-related quality of life, anxiety and repression, and overall survival at one and two years. Overall survival refers to the time from diagnosis when a patient with cancer is still alive.
Most patients in the study — 77.6% — reported having adequate emotional support. Patients who reported having inadequate emotional support, compared with those with adequate emotional support, were more likely to be Black (31.5% versus 20.8%), widowed/divorced (54.2% versus 24.8%) and disabled (24.1% versus 10.4%).
Researchers performed an analysis where they removed certain aspects of data including race, age, sex and cancer stage/type. This allows them to potentially see what is influencing a certain outcome. When this was done, results demonstrated that patients who reported inadequate emotional support had lower mental and physical health-related quality of life. These patients were also more likely to have depression, although there was no significant link between inadequate emotional support and anxiety.
Older patients with and without adequate emotional support did not have differences in overall survival at one and two years.
“(It’s) unclear whether this lack of association is due to the mediating effects of other domains of social support or the uniqueness of this population (older adults with [gastrointestinal] cancers),” the researchers wrote.
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