Supportive Care Needs Often Go Unmet in Leukemia Patients, Leading to Poorer Quality of Life

Acute leukemia may leave patients with fever, fatigue, anemia, and other clinical symptoms. The diagnosis and treatment of acute leukemia may leave patients psychologically burdened. Patients often require long hospital stays, sometimes three to four weeks, to receive treatment. Many of these patients receive induction chemotherapy treatment, which, although has been shown to increase survival, also comes with a host of side effects that may adversely affect quality of life (QoL). Researchers recently assessed what unmet needs adults with acute leukemia may have and how this may impact QoL.

Patients were asked to fill out a self-developed questionnaire with demographic information and disease-related variables. Unmet supportive care needs were identified using a 34-item Supportive Care Needs Survey (SCNS-SF34), and QoL was determined using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Leukaemia (FACT-Leu) questionnaire.

A total of 346 patients were invited to fill out the questionnaire, of whom 306 completed it. Per the 34 items assessed on the SCNS-SF34, unmet supportive care needs rates ranged from 17.6% to 81.7%. The greatest unmet need was observed in the health systems and information domain, with 42.8% of patients reporting a moderate to high need, followed by the psychological (29.5%), physical/daily living (28.4%), patient care and support (24.4%), and sexuality (5.7%) domains.

Factors that were associated with unmet supportive care needs, categorized by domain, included:

  • health system and information domain: original residence, education level, occupation, other diseases, chemotherapy course, disease course, and treatment stage (P<0.05)
  • psychological domain: marital status, education level, disease course, and treatment stage (P<0.005)
  • physical/daily living domain: occupation and treatment stage
  • patient care and support domain: marital status, age, occupation, chemotherapy course, disease course, and treatment stage (P<0.005)
  • sexual domain: age (P<0.005)

Negative correlations were observed between the total FACT-Leu score and the SCNS-SF34 in the physical/daily living, psychological, sexual, patient care and support, and health systems and information domains (P<0.001 for all).

The study was published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes.

“Our results suggest that healthcare professionals need to seek effective interventions to meet the needs of patients, improve QoL, and intervene based on these underlying factors,” the researchers concluded. They called for future studies to assess risk factors associated with supportive care needs at different disease stages and development effective treatment protocols for patients with different cultural characteristics.

Kaitlyn D’Onofrio is a digital medical writer. She is interested in musculoskeletal health, the effect of exercise on health, and mental health awareness. When she’s not writing for DocWire, Kaitlyn is teaching yoga classes in her community, promoting wellness to her students.