A study of symptoms described by ovarian cancer survivors.
Stavraka C., Ford A., Ghaem-Maghami S., Crook T., Agarwal R., Gabra H., Blagden S.
OBJECTIVE: A cross-sectional, observational study to evaluate physical and psychological symptoms experienced by patients following completion of treatment for ovarian cancer and compared to symptoms documented in their hospital notes. METHODS: Women attending follow-up clinic at Hammersmith Hospital having undergone treatment for primary or relapsed ovarian cancer were asked to complete two validated questionnaires (EORTC QLQ-C30 and QLQ-OV28) and a "wellbeing thermometer". Results were assessed and stratified by patient age, tumour stage, relapse status, type of chemotherapy received and treatment-free interval. Symptoms reported in questionnaires were compared to those documented in patients' hospital notes. RESULTS: Of 116 women approached, 100 (86%) participated in this study and had received chemotherapy for ovarian cancer between 2003 and 2010. The most frequently described and severe symptoms reported in the questionnaires were emotional symptoms, negative feelings about treatment or prognosis, fatigue and pain. Dyspareunia, cognitive impairment and peripheral neuropathy were also frequently described. Symptom severity was independent of variables such as disease stage, type of chemotherapy received and relapse status. The "wellbeing thermometer" scores closely correlated with pain, fatigue, weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms and attitude to disease or treatment (p<0.001). There was a marked discordance between questionnaire-reported symptoms and those recorded in hospital notes. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of women surveyed experienced persistent psychological and physical symptoms following ovarian cancer treatment; in particular: psychological concerns, sexual inactivity and fatigue, all potentially reversible with appropriate interventions. Our results highlight the extent of symptoms described by ovarian cancer survivors and the need for them to be adequately acknowledged and addressed.