UR Study Receives WERA Publication Award 2023
Bavarian oncology network honors the work of the "Quality of Life" Research Group at the Tumor Center Regensburg/ Center of Quality Management and Health Services Research at UR's Faculty of Medicine
10 August 2023
Dr. med. Vinzenz Völkel and Dr. phil. Patricia Lindberg-Scharf obtained the WERA Publication Award 2023 at the first network meeting of the Bavarian Comprehensive Cancer Center Alliance CCC WERA on July 14, 2023 in Augsburg. Their publication "Colorectal cancer survivors' long-term recollections of their illness and therapy up to seven years after enrolment into a randomised controlled clinical trial" was selected from 21 submissions by a jury of patient representatives.
This award also rewards the many years of work of the "Quality of Life" research group at the Tumor Center Regensburg/ Center of Quality Management and Health Services Research at the University of Regensburg led by Professor Dr. Monika Klinkhammer-Schalke; it emphasizes the importance of oncological health services research, for which the site and in particular the Center of Quality Management and Health Services Research are known both nationally and internationally.
How cancer patients recollect disease and treatment
As a result of effective treatment regimens, the number of long-term colorectal cancer survivors continuously increases. "Following a previous study on breast cancer patients, the aim of the study was to investigate colorectal cancer patients' recollections of their disease and treatment experiences up to seven years after their participation in a randomized controlled clinical trial for direct improvement of quality of life (RCT DIQOL)," Dr. Völkel and Dr. Lindberg-Scharf explain.
In order to obtain the research objective, colorectal cancer survivors from the region were given a questionnaire an average of 78.3 months after starting their therapy and participating in the RCT DIQOL, asking about their worst experiences during colorectal cancer, positive aspects of the disease and advice they would give to newly diagnosed patients. Patients' responses were categorized and quantitatively analyzed.
Out of 146 remaining survivors initially enrolled in the RCT DIQOL, 96 (66%) returned the questionnaire. The results showed that the majority (33%) of statements regarding the worst experience related to "psychological distress," followed by "indigestion and discomfort during bowel movements" (17%), and "cancer diagnosis" (16%). Of survivors with a history of stoma, the majority (36%) described "stoma" as their worst experience.
At 45%, "change in life priorities" was the most common positive category, ahead of "support from physicians/nurses" (25%). Forty-three percent of survivors considered "fighting spirit" the most important advice for coping with the disease.
Psychological stress and changing priorities
The study shows that colorectal cancer survivors clearly remember experiences from the time of their disease even after many years. Following the results of the previous study on breast cancer survivors, "psychological stress", "change in life priorities" and "fighting spirit" emerged as prominent components. In addition, some aspects such as the impact of a stoma are of particular importance for colorectal cancer survivors.
Dr. Völkel emphasizes: "Especially in the case of advanced colorectal tumors, the temporary or permanent creation of an artificial outlet is sometimes unavoidable. It is therefore all the more important to be aware of how stressful such an intervention is perceived by those affected; even after many years, it influences the memory of the successfully treated cancer. It may be that this topic needs to be discussed in more detail already at the therapy planning stage in order to relieve patients' anxiety."
The findings of the UR study can help to better tailor communication and treatment concepts to the needs of patients.
At the presentation of the award certificate (from): Sandra Windschüttl (patient representative CCC WERA Regensburg), Dr. Patricia Lindberg-Scharf (UR Center of Quality Management and Health Services Research), Dr. Vinzenz Völkel (UR Center of Quality Management and Health Services Research), Prof. Dr. Martin Trepel (Director, II Medical Clinic, University Hospital Augsburg), Anne Federolf-Schneider (patient representative CCC WERA Erlangen), Brigitte Welter (patient representative CCC WERA Augsburg). Credit: Diana Zapf-Deniz | University Hospital Augsburg
Völkel, V., Steinger, B., Koller, M. Klinkhammer-Schalke M., Lindberg-Scharf P. „Colorectal cancer survivors’ long-term recollections of their illness and therapy up to seven years after enrolment into a randomised controlled clinical trial”. BMC Cancer 23, 149 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-023-10604-z