Feeling the Impact of Pancreatic Disease

Black man lying down with stomach pain

PHILADELPHIA – Patients with various forms of pancreatic disease, ranging from pancreatic cancer to chronic pancreatitis are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and other conditions that negatively impact their quality of life (QOL), according to new research from Thomas Jefferson University, suggesting that treating underlying conditions may be particularly important in this group of patients. Those with lower quality of life scores were more likely to be younger (55-65 years), women, cigarette smokers and had a history of anxiety or depression.

“Patients were found to have low quality of life at their first visit to a pancreatic surgery specialist,” says lead author Theresa Yeo, PhD, FAANP, professor of Nursing and Co-Director of the Jefferson Pancreas Tumor Registry at Thomas Jefferson University. “This tells us that patients often feel a lack of energy, and may need to spend more time in bed,” says Dr. Yeo. “They might not be able to meet the needs of their family, or find fulfilment in their work or life.”

The researchers, led by Dr. Yeo, surveyed 462 patients with pancreatic cancer or benign pancreatic disease between January 2013 and March 2018, with follow-up in 2018-2020. The results were recently published in the journal Annals of Surgery. This is the largest published descriptive study of patients with pancreatic cancer and benign pancreas disease that has assessed QOL at the time of first visit to a surgery specialty clinic i.e. The Jefferson Pancreas, Biliary and Related Cancer Center.

The researchers used three standardized survey tools that assessed a patient’s quality of life, including questions related to physical, social, functional and emotional well-being, and pain and fatigue.  The researchers also collected data on other demographics, severity of disease, complications and survival.They found that this cohort of patients scored at or below the 75th percentile of wellness at their first visit, which is lower than expected. Patients who did not receive post-operative chemotherapy also had a lower baseline QOL score.

One notable finding was that Black patients were three times more likely to experience complications after surgery than non-Black patients. “This was an unexpected finding of our study and requires further examination,” says Dr. Yeo. 

This research tells us that as a field we need to develop processes to help patients through other aspects of health beyond the immediate pancreatic disease treatment,” says Dr. Yeo. “Pancreatic diseases have a major impact on a patient’s life that need to be addressed comprehensively. One approach, going forward is to fully enlist the multitude of resources available to patients at NCI-designated cancer centers such the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.”

Article reference: Theresa P Yeo, Ryan W Fogg, Ayako Shimada, Nicole Marchesani, Harish Lavu, Avinoam Nevler, Sarah Hegarty, Jonathan R Brody, Charles J Yeo, “The Imperative of Assessing Quality of Life in Patients Presenting to a Pancreaticobiliary Surgery Clinic,” Ann Surg, DOI: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005049, 2021.

Media Contact: Edyta Zielinska, 267-234-3553, edyta.zielinska@jefferson.edu