Cancer survivors left with lingering side effects

Broward Health document patient-reported outcomes

By Kristi Krueger - Anchor/Health Reporter, Ben Candea

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Dennis Parvu underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat his neck cancer.

"After the treatment is done, after six and a half weeks of radiation, chemotherapy, you think the problems are over," he said. "I could not eat, I could not -- my throat hurt so bad."

Parvu lost his sense of taste and 30 pounds along with it.

"People don't realize what the aftereffects are," he added.

Side effects of cancer treatment include memory loss, difficulty with speech, fatigue, pain, weakness, and problems with bladder or bowel control.

"We are improving in our ability to cure cancer and that improvement is taking time -- it's been a hard-fought battle -- but we're leaving patients scarred, leaving patients with side effects, which can last a lifetime," said Dr. Evan Landau.

Broward Health has since instituted a research protocol to measure and document patient-reported outcomes. It measures 65 areas of concern on a 1-to-5 scale.

"We can target areas for improvement and see what we did do better, how we can make our treatment better, how can we reduce these long-term side effects," said Landau.

Parvu sense of taste gradually returned, but he still suffers from chronic dry mouth, a condition he knows may never go away.

"You get used to doing it," he said. "It's part of your daily routine and it's something you have to live with."

Cancer specialists say early recognition of how patients are feeling during and after treatment helps better define treatment protocols.

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