Radiotherapy-induced toxicity may negatively impact health-related quality of life (HRQoL). This report investigates the impact of curative-intent radiotherapy on HRQoL and toxicity in early stage and locally-advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients treated with radiotherapy or chemo-radiotherapy enrolled in the observational prospective REQUITE study.
HRQoL was assessed using the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer QLQ-C30 questionnaire up to 2 years post radiotherapy. Eleven toxicities were scored by clinicians using the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) version 4. Toxicity scores were calculated by subtracting baseline values. Mixed model analyses were applied to determine statistical significance (p ≤ 0.01). Meaningful clinical important differences (MCID) were determined for changes in HRQoL. Analysis was performed on the overall data, different radiotherapy techniques, multimodality treatments and disease stages.
Data of 510 patients were analysed. There was no significant change in HRQoL or its domains, except for deterioration in cognitive functioning (p = 0.01). Radiotherapy technique had no significant impact on HRQoL. The addition of chemotherapy was significantly associated with HRQoL over time (p <.001). Overall toxicity did not significantly change over time. Acute toxicities of radiation-dermatitis (p =.003), dysphagia (p =.002) and esophagitis (p <.001) peaked at 3 months and decreased thereafter. Pneumonitis initially deteriorated but improved significantly after 12 months (p =.011). A proportion of patients experienced meaningful clinically important improvements and deteriorations in overall HRQoL and its domains. In some patients, pre-treatment symptoms improved gradually.
While overall HRQoL and toxicity did not change over time, some patients improved, whereas others experienced acute radiotherapy-induced toxicities and deteriorated HRQoL, especially physical and cognitive functioning. Patient characteristics, more so than radiotherapy technique and treatment modality, impact post-radiotherapy toxicity and HRQoL outcomes. This stresses the importance of considering the potential impact of radiotherapy on individuals’ HRQoL, symptoms and toxicity in treatment decision-making.

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