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Patient-reported symptom burden after cancer surgery in older adults: a population-level analysis


Background — Older adults have unique needs for supportive care after surgery. We examined symptom trajectories and factors associated with high symptom burden after cancer surgery in older adults.

Patients and Methods — We conducted a population-level study of patients ≥ 70 years old undergoing cancer surgery (2007–2018) using prospectively collected Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) scores. The monthly prevalence of moderate to severe symptoms (ESAS ≥ 4) for anxiety, depression, drowsiness, lack of appetite, nausea, pain, shortness of breath, tiredness, and poor wellbeing was computed over 12 months after surgery.

Results — Among 48,748 patients, 234,420 ESAS scores were recorded over 12 months after surgery. Moderate to severe tiredness (57.8%), poor wellbeing (51.9%), and lack of appetite (39.3%) were most common. The proportion of patients with moderate to severe symptoms was stable over the 1 month prior to and 12 months after surgery (< 5% variation for each symptom). There was no clinically significant change (< 5%) in symptom trajectory with the initiation of adjuvant therapy.

Conclusions — Patient-reported symptom burden was stable for up to 1 year after cancer surgery among older adults. Neither surgery nor adjuvant therapy coincided with a worsening in symptom burden. However, the persistence of symptoms at 1 year may suggest gaps in supportive care for older adults. This information on symptom trajectory and predictors of high symptom burden is important to set appropriate expectations and improve patient counseling, recovery care pathways, and proactive symptom management for older adults after cancer surgery.



Hallet J, Zuckerman J, Guttman MP, Chesney TR, Haas B, Mahar A, Eskander A, Chan WC, Hsu A, Barabash V, Coburn N; for the REcovery after Surgical Therapy for Older Adults Research-Cancer (RESTORE-C) Group. Ann Surg Oncol. 2022; Sep 6 [Epub ahead of print].

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