Characteristics of the population
The study covered a group of 220 patients (89 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 131 women diagnosed with breast cancer). The mean age of all the patients was 55.52 years of age: 56.34 years of age among women with ovarian cancer and 54.96 years of age among women with breast cancer. Patients aged 52 prevailed in the population.
The population was divided into nine age groups with a 5-year span in age. The largest group was that composed of patients aged >65 years (25.45%), the smallest – of patients under 30-34 years of age (1.81%). The group of patients aged over 65 was the largest for both ovarian cancer (30.34%) and breast cancer (22.14%). The largest group of the women (36.81%) lived in cities with a population of over 500,000, 28.19% of the women lived in cities with a population of up to 50,000, 18.18% of the women lived in the countryside, 9.09% in cities of 50,000 to 100,000, 7.73% in cities of 100,000 to 500,000. More than a half of the women were married (56.36%), while 19.09% were widows, 12.27% were single or divorced. When it comes to their professional status, 39.54% of the women were pensioners, 37.73% were employed, 14.55% were unemployed and 8.18% were students. More than a half of the women were receiving cancer therapy (75.45%) at the time of the study. Nearly 9% of the patients were awaiting therapy, others had already completed cancer therapy. The patients were also asked about the type of therapy they had received, were receiving or would receive. The largest group had chemotherapy (74.54%) followed by groups that had surgery (50.00%), radiotherapy (33.18%) and eventually hormone therapy (23.64%). In all, 27.27% of the patients pointed to a significant deterioration in their health as a result of cancer.
During the study, 16.36% of the women were pre-menopausal, 17.73% were in the course of menopause and 65.91% were post-menopausal.
General subjective assessment of health and quality of life made by the patients
The patients were asked to make a subjective assessment of their health in the last week (on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means very poor health and 7 means excellent health). The largest group of patients rated their health at 4 (36.36%), 22.27% rated it at 5 and 13.18% rated it at 6. 5.00% of the women declared their health to be excellent and 4.54% very poor.
The mean health rate in the population was 4.23 with a standard deviation of 1.41 . The patients with breast cancer rated their health higher (4.39) in comparison to the patients with ovarian cancer (4.00). Nonetheless, the subjective health assessment made by the patients was not related to the type of cancer (P>0.05).
The patients were also asked to make a subjective assessment of their quality of life in the last week (on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means very low quality of life and 7 means excellent quality of life). The largest group of patients rated their quality of life at 4 (33.64%), 20.91% rated it at 5 and 15.91% rated it at 3. 5.91% of the women evaluated their quality of life to be either excellent or very low.
The mean quality of life rate in the population was 4.15 with a standard deviation of 1.46. Whilst the patients with breast cancer rated their quality of life higher than the patients with ovarian cancer (4.31 and 3.91 respectively), the differences were not statistically significant (P>0.05).
I. Physical functioning
In terms of physical functioning, the women were asked about problems with tiring activities, fatigue during long and short walks, need for help during daily activities, limitations in performing daily activities, limitations in pursuing their hobbies, need to rest during the day and the sense of fatigue. These aspects were not determined by the type of disease – the patients with ovarian cancer and the patients with breast cancer gave similar answers. Overall, 86% of the patients had problems with tiring activities; one in four women said those problems were very large and nearly 26% said they were significant. More than 45% of the women said they suffered from fatigue during short walks and over 77% of the patients declared that they felt tired during long walks. The need for help during daily activities was reported by 15.91% of the patients and 1.82% evaluated it to be very large. Nearly 70% of the women said that they encountered limitations in performing daily work or activities, a slightly smaller number of the patients (67.27%) experienced limitations in pursuing their hobbies. For nearly 90% of the women it was essential to rest during the day, with 11.82% stating that the need for rest was very large.
Only 13.64% of the patients did not experience fatigue during the day with 56.36% suffering from slight fatigue, 21.36% from significant fatigue and 8.64% from severe fatigue. Tables 1 and 2 present the above-described aspects.
In terms of pain, the patients were asked about pain sensation as well as dyspnoea, weakness and pain that made it difficult to perform daily activities. No statistically significant relationships were found in these aspects between the intensity of pain and location of the tumour. Nearly 70% of the women reported that they experienced pain in the last week with 7.27% stating that they experienced this problem very often. More than 42% of the women suffered from dyspnoea and nearly 80% from weakness. Pain that made it difficult to perform daily activities was reported by 56.36% of the patients. Tables 3 and 4 present the characteristics of the above variables.
III. Family and social functioning
The patients were also asked to evaluate how their health affected their family and social life and financial standing. By correlating each of the above factors with the location of the tumor it was revealed that the location of the tumor did not significantly affect family and social life in the population of women. Only 33.64% of the patients stated that their health had no impact at all on their family life and 28.18% saw no connection between their health and problems in social life. However, more than 26.36% of the women indicated that their health made their family life significantly or much more difficult and 33.64% of the patients declared the existence of significant or very large problems in social life. More than 66% of the patients admitted that their health was a cause of financial problems with nearly 30% pointing to significant or very high correlation (Table 5, 6).