15 September 2020

First study uses cancer registries to investigate prevalence

Cancer-related pain, fatigue and depression are recognised to co-exist in a “symptom cluster” among cancer patients and survivors, writes John Dowling. The exact extent to which these clusters occur in prostate cancer survivors has previously been unknown, but a new study indicates they are present in 1 in 13 prostate cancer survivors.

The individual elements of the symptom cluster are common among prostate cancer survivors, say the authors, writing in Supportive Care in Cancer.  Up to three-quarters of survivors may experience cancer-related fatigue. Urethral pain is reported by 16% following radiation therapy. And on average, 18% of survivors have depression post-treatment.

Associations have been reported between different elements of the cluster in prostate cancer survivors before, but no previous studies have investigated prevalence of the pain-fatigue-depression symptom cluster in prostate cancer, or indicated which survivors are at greatest risk.

The researchers used high quality cancer registries in the Republic and Northern Ireland to investigate.  They found that that 7.3% of prostate cancer survivors (one in every 13) experienced all three symptoms.   They suggest that large numbers of prostate cancer survivors worldwide may be experiencing the combination of pain, fatigue and depression. The findings suggest that intervention to alleviate elements of the symptom cluster might improve survivors’ health related quality of life.