The concept of quality of life has been critically important to oncology over all of the years. But I think it has a special importance now, given the dramatic changes in cancer care, we know that with new treatment approaches immunotherapies, targeted agents, there are so many changes that really impact the lives of people with cancer. Working closely with cancer patients, we’ve had the opportunity to do research related to quality of life.
We have used a model that encompasses four dimensions of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing. And what we’re seeing is that the changes in cancer care mean tremendous changes for patients and their quality of life.
For example, in the area of physical well-being, we know that the new agents that have made such a difference and prolong survival for our patients often carry with them many important side effects and concerns. And so it’s ever more important that oncology settings are using NCCN guidelines and other evidence that guides our practice in areas such as pain and symptom management.
For the area of psychological well-being, we know that patients, of course, continue to have problems such as anxiety and depression. But now our patients live with great uncertainty. They don’t know how long the new therapies will sustain their lives. And there’s tremendous psychological distress associated with this uncertainty. And again, NCCN has really led the way and attention to psychological distress through their guidelines, which are outstanding direction for conditions.
And the area of social well-being we know that in oncology, we care for not only the patient with the diagnosis, but the entire family. And so social concerns, such as family caregivers, become ever more important.
In the area of spiritual well-being, again, the NCCN psychological distress guidelines are one of the best resources that exist to direct spiritual assessment and attention to spiritual concerns as a part of overall psychological distress.
I think that cancer care is advancing. And we have more and more clinical trials, as well as new agents that we need to always remain focused on what our treatments mean, in terms of quality of life for patients and for their families. Because for all of us, quality of life, remains the ultimate goal of all of our cancer treatments.