This is the first time cancer patients’ quality of life has been so closely studied and analysed in Estonia. The study is based on a questionnaire developed by The World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL). The aim of the WHOQOL project (initiated in 1991) was to develop an international cross-culturally comparable quality of life assessment instrument. It assesses the individual’s perceptions in the context of their culture and value systems, and their personal goals, standards and concerns.
The WHOQOL-BREF instrument comprises 26 items, which measure the following broad domains: physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and environment. The WHOQOL-BREF is a shorter version of the original instrument that may be more convenient for use in large research studies or clinical trials.
The study shows that when evaluating their quality of life, cancer patients give lowest scores to the factors concerning their physical health and highest to those of social relationships. Personal beliefs and socioeconomic factors such as education and labour market status also impact their evaluations. It came apparent that half of the patients taking part in the questionnaire do not accept the support systems offered.
The results clearly show that information about the support systems needs to reach cancer patients. Professional counselling should be available to patients and their family and friends, ideally through a network of ex-patients. It is essential for all the cancer patients to have access to physiotherapy. Anonymity is important to cancer patients; therefore data handling rules should be thoroughly analysed and adjusted.
The focus is on psychosocial factors. It analysis the factors that impact it and their importance in order to evaluate the options and means Estonian Cancer Society (non-profit umbrella organisation for 11 independent NGO`s involved with oncological problems) acting as the main trustee has in improving cancer patients’ quality of life. The study includes literature overview, data collection through questionnaires, and focus groups to provide context for the results from data analysis and specify interventions to improve cancer patients’ quality of life.