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Cure no quick fix for cancer survivors on long road to recovery

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Patients who hear the dreaded words "you have cancer" invariably look forward to the day the doctor tells them "you're cured." But University of Florida researchers say survival often comes at its own price -- the mind may need mending even after the body heals.

A national study of cancer patients who underwent bone marrow transplantation reveals cancer diagnosis and treatment has a profound and lasting emotional and physical impact that can persist for decades. In fact, many cancer survivors report lingering sleep and sexual problems, pain, cognitive problems and generally poor physical well-being relative to their healthy peers, said John Wingard, M.D., director of the blood and marrow transplant program and deputy director of the UF Shands Cancer Center for the Gainesville campus.

The study was the largest to date to assess long-term quality of life issues among these patients.

"A cure is not necessarily synonymous with total resumption of good health," Wingard said.

Many patients suffer physical complications, such as infections or toxicity from intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, he said. And both the patient and the family must often travel to specialized tertiary care centers distant from the home, requiring them to establish a temporary residence for a number of weeks or even months. Their work is disrupted, and they frequently face financial challenges and high health-care costs.

"All of this occurs in the setting of a considerable amount of anxiety about whether the transplant is going to be successful, whether the cancer is going to be controlled, and whether potentially lethal complications will occur during therapy," Wingard said. "The individual and the family are subjected to a pressure cooker of emotions and challenges they need to face."

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, highlight the need for doctors to help their patients cope with the often
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Contact: Melanie Ross
ufcardiac@aol.com
352-690-7051
University of Florida
15-Mar-2005


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