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Cancer Pract. 2001 Jan-Feb;9(1):11-8.

Physical functioning and depression among older persons with cancer.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.



The purpose of this study was to help identify factors to assess which elderly patients are likely to experience problems with physical and psychological functioning in association with cancer or its treatment.


A study was undertaken with a sample of 420 patients with cancer who were between the ages of 65 and 98 years and had received an incident diagnosis of breast, colon, lung, or prostate cancer. An analysis of covariance technique was used to determine how cancer site, treatment type, stage of disease, gender, age, comorbidity, symptom severity, and pre-diagnosis levels of physical functioning were related to physical functioning deficit, and how all of these in turn influenced patient depressive symptomatology.


Pre-diagnosis physical functioning, symptom severity, and days since surgery were significant predictors of physical functioning deficit. Patients who had been treated only with surgery experienced greater physical functioning deficits than did patients who had received both surgery and adjuvant therapy. This apparent anomaly was partly explained by the time interval from surgery to interview. Higher levels of symptom severity, lower levels of prior physical functioning, and greater physical functioning deficits all predicted higher levels of depressive symptomatology.


In the care of elderly patients with cancer, it is important for healthcare providers to consider the pre-diagnosis levels of physical functioning of patients with cancer to understand and anticipate the physical and psychological consequences of cancer and its treatment. Equally important is the proper management of patient symptoms in maximizing both the physical and psychological quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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