Publication time – my first crack at a new (to me) field

Until 15 May 2022, you can get a copy of our new paper here. It’s published in Gynecologic Oncology (online from 26 March 2022). It will be freely available again later, once the journal has had a chance to make some money from holding it behind a paywall. In the meantime, do contact me (maybe on Twitter @confoundingfact) if you’d like a copy.

This study looks at the quality of life of women with gynaecological cancer when they receive their diagnosis, and one year on from that diagnosis. Quality of life is an umbrella term which covers a whole range of feelings and situations: energy levels, sociability, sex, and ability to concentrate, as well as physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue and weakness. There are lots of different accepted question batteries for getting at this, but we used two which are cancer-specific: they’re called QLACS and QLQ-C30. The idea of picking these as ‘outcomes’ for study is to look at the whole person. We didn’t concentrate on whether a woman’s cancer was well-treated, or whether she could be considered ‘cured’, or whether she had side-effects from treatment: we looked at a summary measure intended to represent many aspects of her quality of life.

Participants who were depressed or anxious before starting treatment had worse quality of life both at diagnosis and after 12 months, even after controlling for other factors which are known to be associated with both mental health and quality of life outcomes (such as socio-economic status, physical health status, social support, diet, and exercise). We know from previous research that there is a need for mental health screening for people with cancer so that appropriate support can be given. This paper shows that poorer mental health is associated with worse all-round outcomes.

Women who are more confident in living with or managing the effects of cancer and cancer treatment have better quality of life at diagnosis and one year on: this type of practical confidence is called “self-efficacy”. Our paper supports the idea that self-efficacy is an important protective factor for quality of life. We think that it’s something that clinicians should look for, and support women to gain confidence, as they treat patients with gynaecological cancer.

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