Chicago, Ill — If you're being treated for cancer, speak up about any side effects.
A study that had patients use home computers to report symptoms like nausea and fatigue surprisingly improved survival - by almost half a year, longer than many new cancer drugs do.
The online tool was intended as a quick and easy way for people to regularly report complications rather than trying to call their doctors or waiting until the next appointment.
Researchers had hoped to improve quality of life but got a bonus in longer survival.
"I was floored by the results," said the study leader, Dr. Ethan Basch. "We are proactively catching things early" with online reporting.
Patients were able to stick with treatment longer because their side effects were quickly addressed, he said.
People shouldn't assume that symptoms are an unavoidable part of cancer care, said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"You want to be able to reach your provider as early and easily as possible," because a sign like shortness of breath may mean treatment isn't working and needs to be changed, he said.
The study was featured at the cancer group's annual meeting in Chicago on Sunday and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.