New research improves life expectancy estimates

In an Australian first, Queensland researchers have estimated the loss of life expectancy for newly diagnosed cancer patients, providing a more complete picture of the potential impacts of the disease.

Cancer Council Queensland and QUT research* found, on average, Australians diagnosed with cancer at age 40 faced losing an average of 11.2 years of life due to their cancer, with 78 per cent alive after 10 years.

Australians diagnosed at age 80, being closer to the age of full life-expectancy, faced losing less years, an average of 3.9 years, and only 45 per cent were alive after 10 years.


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Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the prognostic model would give cancer patients a greater understanding of the impact of their diagnosis.

“Standard measures of life expectancies are calculated on historical mortality data only – irrespective of the time span when a person was diagnosed with cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“Our method calculates the loss of life expectancy based on the relative survival experiences of groups of people diagnosed with specific types of cancer during specific time spans – to get a more accurate estimate.”

The research estimated loss of life expectancy – the difference between the life expectancy among the general population and that of people diagnosed with cancer – and remaining life expectancy among cancer patients.

“The results for individual cancers varied widely, both by cancer type and by age,” Ms Clift said.

“The study found that the likelihood of younger people dying within 10 years of a cancer diagnosis was lower than that for older people around 80 years of age.

“Our hope is to build on these findings by examining the effect of clinical characteristics on life expectancy, such as stage at diagnosis.

“Our aim is to ensure that clinicians, patients, and the community have access to reliable information that provides a realistic prognosis based on the improvements we’ve seen in survival over time.

“This research is an important addition to existing methods of measuring survival, allowing doctors and researchers to provide a broader picture of the impact of a cancer diagnosis.”

The study examined data from 870,878 Australian cancer patients aged 15-89 years who had been diagnosed with invasive cancer between 1990 and 2007.

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