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Curr Oncol. 2009 Mar;16(2):16-28.

Quality of life measurement in cancer patients receiving palliative radiotherapy for symptomatic lung cancer: a literature review.

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Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program, Department of Radiation Oncology, Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.


Approximately 27% of North American cancer deaths are attributable to cancer of the lung. Many lung cancers are found at an advanced stage, rendering the tumours inoperable and the patients palliative. Common symptoms associated with palliative lung cancer include cough, hemoptysis, and dyspnea, all of which can significantly debilitate and diminish quality of life (QOL). In studies of the effects of cancer therapies, the frequent evaluative endpoints are survival and local control; however, it is imperative that clinical trials with palliative patients also have a QOL focus when a cure is unattainable. We conducted a literature review to investigate the use of QOL instrument tools in trials studying QOL or symptom palliation of primary lung cancer or lung metastases through the use of radiotherapy. We identified forty-three studies: nineteen used a QOL tool, and twenty-four examined symptom palliation without the use of a QOL instrument. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (eortc) QLQ-C30 survey was the most commonly used QOL questionnaire (in thirteen of twenty trials). Of those thirteen studies, eight also incorporated the lung-specific QOL survey eortc QLQ-LC13 (or the eortc QLQ-LC17). A second lung-specific survey, the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lung (fact-L) was used in only two of the twenty trials. In total, only ten of forty-three trials (23%) used a lung-specific QOL tool, suggesting that QOL was of low priority as an endpoint and that measures created for lung cancer patients are underused. We encourage investigators in future trials to include specific QOL instruments such as the eortc QLQ-LC13 or the fact-L for studies in palliative thoracic radiotherapy because those instruments provide a measure of QOL specific to patients with lung cancer or lung metastases.


Lung cancer; eortc qlq-C30; eortc qlq-LC13; fact-L; qol instrument; quality of life; review


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