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Keywords:

  • psychosocial impact;
  • age;
  • quality of life;
  • unmet needs;
  • formal service use;
  • caregiver burden

Abstract

Past studies of the psychosocial aspects of cancer have been largely descriptive, with little discussion of differences among cancer patients. Age differences have been noted repeatedly in studies of the effects of various cancer treatments. To determine whether age differences are also present the prevalence of various psychosocial problems often associated with cancer, analyses of data obtained from several different studies of Rhode Island cancer patients' psychosocial conditions were conducted, comparing the responses of older and younger patients. Psychosocial factors examined included multiple measures of functional quality of life, emotional well-being, social consequences, knowledge and use of formal services, and familial reactions. The studies examined included newly diagnosed patients and those undergoing outpatient radiation or chemotherapy for recurrent disease. Except in functional status measures, older persons with cancer manifested fewer and less severe psychosocial problems. The authors contend that older patients have fewer competing demands on their time and resources than do younger patients. This, along with different expectations, may mitigate the negative impact of the specific psychosocial consequences of the disease and its treatment.