Background: Secondary to clinical outcome, health-related quality of life (QOL) after resection of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is of particular interest. However, few studies have explored QOL following lung resection.
Methods: Between January 1998 and December 2004, a total of 159 patients with NSCLC underwent surgical resection and were enrolled in this prospective study. QOL and clinical data were assessed prior to resection and for up to 24 months after surgery by applying the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer core questionnaire and the lung-specific questionnaire, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer lung-specific module. QOL was calculated, and QOL following bilobectomy/lobectomy was compared with QOL after pneumonectomy.
Results: Overall, the 5-year survival rate was 42%. Mean survival of the pneumonectomy group was slightly lower than that of the bilobectomy/lobectomy group, although the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.058). The rate of complications was not significantly different between the two groups. After a postoperative drop, most QOL indicators remained near baseline for up to 24 months, with the exception of physical function (p < 0.001), pain (p = 0.034), and dyspnoea (p < 0.001), which remained significantly impaired. QOL was significantly better (difference > 10 points) after bilobectomy/lobectomy than after pneumonectomy. However, differences were statistically significant only with regards to physical function (at 3 months), social function (at 3 and 6 months), role function (at 3, 6, and 12 months), global health (at 3 and 6 months), and pain (at 6 months).
Conclusions: Patients who underwent lung resection for NSCLC failed to make a complete recovery after 24 months. Patients who underwent pneumonectomy had significantly worse QOL values and a decreased tendency to recover, compared with patients who underwent bilobectomy/lobectomy. Therefore, major lung resection has a much more serious impact on the QOL of affected patients than does major visceral surgery.