Functional Impairments and Quality of Life in Older Adults With Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers

Published:December 23, 2020DOI:



      Functional impairments (measured by activities of daily living [ADLs]) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) may complicate outcomes in older adults diagnosed with cancer. In this retrospective cohort analysis, we characterized ADLs and HRQOL in adults older than 65 y with upper gastrointestinal (UGI) cancers and evaluated for an association to cancer-specific survival.

      Materials and methods

      Patients with UGI cancers aged 65 y or older were selected from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results and the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey–linked database. Demographics, comorbidities, stage, ADLs, and HRQOL were summarized by patients managed with and without surgery. Because of the wide variety of cancers, we subdivided patients into cohorts of esophagogastric [EG; n = 88] or hepatobiliary/pancreatic [n = 68]. Cancer-specific survival curves were modeled for changes in ADL and HRQOL scores after diagnosis. Risk factors for cancer-specific survival were assessed with hazard ratios (HRs) and adjusted for demographics, stage, comorbidities, and disease cohorts.


      HRQOL scores declined after diagnosis, with a sharper decline in nonsurgery patients. On multivariate analysis, inability to perform specific ADLs was associated with worse survival in multiple cohorts: hepatobiliary/pancreatic nonsurgery patients unable to eat (HR 3.3 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7-6.5); all patients with EG unable to use the toilet (HR 3.3 95% CI 1.5-7.9); EG nonsurgery cohort unable to dress or use the toilet (dress HR 14.1 95% CI 4.0-49.0; toilet HR 4.7 95% CI 1.8-12.3).


      Older survivors with UGI cancers report declines in HRQOL, especially those not undergoing surgery. The ability to perform ADLs may be linked to survival in this population.


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