Improving quality of life for patients with prostate cancer

Posted 22 Sep 2021

Flinders University researchers are aiming to improve the outcomes for patients with prostate cancer by introducing routine quality of life assessments and breaking down barriers to treatment.

Dr Norma B. Bulamu will pilot the use of health-related quality of life questionnaires to assist oncologists in identifying and addressing issues in clinical care for men with prostate cancer.

“Research shows that some of the things that bother people with prostate cancer are outside of the actual medication and treatment,” Dr Bulamu said.

“They might be concerned about sexual function and what impact that will have on their relationship, or they could be feeling depressed or just not physically strong.

“These patients really want to continue with their medication, but these other issues that affect their quality of life can impact their compliance to treatment as well.”

Dr Bulamu hopes that patients will have more time to discuss these concerns with their oncologist by completing a quality of life assessment before appointments.

Once a patient has completed the assessment, their oncologist will be provided with a report summarising quality of life domains such as mental health, emotional health, physical functioning, fatigue and nausea.

These reports will serve as talking points for patients to communicate areas they are struggling with and create an avenue for intervention.

“In the 15 minutes a clinician has with a patient, they don’t necessarily have time to delve into how the patient is going emotionally, or regarding a specific issue, but the clinician still wants to be able to monitor what is going on outside of their treatment,” Dr Bulamu said.

“If the clinician knows what’s going on, they can help the patient or refer them to get help. But if it isn’t talked about, no one will address it.”

Another objective of the research is to investigate how co-morbidities, conditions that co-occur with a primary condition, affect how men with prostate cancer utilise health services and how out-of-pocket expenditures incurred in seeking and obtaining care for prostate cancer impact their access to care.

Out-of-pocket expenses could include ‘gaps’ in the costs of medication and treatment, as well as the cost of transport and accommodation to receive treatment, and loss of income.

Dr Bulamu’s research will determine whether the cost was a barrier to treatment.

“If out-of-pocket expenses are high, it could prevent patients from getting treatment or in choosing one treatment over another. In most cases, the treatment they choose is less effective because they can’t afford the more effective and expensive treatment,” Dr Bulamu said.

“If that’s the case, we will have the data to argue that more funding should be directed towards treatment because people are getting less-optimal treatment just because they can’t afford to pay the gap.”

This is one of nine projects being undertaken by researchers in the new Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University. The Centre’s research is supported through funding from the Masonic Charities Trust and Flinders Foundation.

The Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing is an SA and NT research alliance involving Flinders University and Flinders Foundation, Masonic Charities Trust, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Menzies School of Health Research and the University of Adelaide.

Research category: Prostate Cancer

Project title: Quality of life assessment in routine care for prostate cancer 

Chief and Associate Investigators: Dr Norma B. Bulamu (Flinders University) (Pictured),  A/Prof Michael O’Callaghan (Flinders University), Dr Ganessan Kichenadasse (Flinders University), A/Prof Billingsley Kaambwa (Flinders University), Prof Bogda Koczwara (Flinders University)


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