To explore whether determinants of global quality of life (QOL) change before and after major cancer surgery.
Consecutive patients (n = 145) undergoing surgery for upper gastrointestinal cancer were prospectively studied and asked to complete the EORTC QLQ-C30 before and after 6 months. Excluded were patients found to be inoperable (n = 12) and those with missing second questionnaires (because of death n = 20, poor health (n = 10), administrative failure (n = 7) or patient refusal (n = 4)). Multivariable linear regression models investigated associations between global QOL and other scales and items of QOL adjusting for clinical variables.
Some 87 patients completed both questionnaires. Before surgery the main predictors of global QOL were physical and emotional function, with adjusted increases in global QOL of 0.55 (95% CI 0.26–0.84; P < 0.001) and 0.30 (95% CI 0.14–0.45; P < 0.001) per unit increase of physical and emotional function, respectively. Six months after surgery, however, fatigue and dyspnea most strongly predicted global QOL, with adjusted differences in global QOL of −0.24 (95% CI −0.44 to −0.04; P = 0.02) per unit increase of fatigue and −6.28 (95% CI −12.64 to 0.07; P = 0.05) for those experiencing any symptoms of dyspnea.
Further work is needed to test these findings, but the results suggest that the global QOL scale in the QLQ-C30 is difficult to interpret and it should be considered within the context of other clinical and patient reported outcomes.