We investigated sex differences in the prevalence of physical (EORTC QLQ-C30) and emotional symptoms (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and loss of functioning (EORTC QLQ-C30) in 5339 cancer survivors (55% males). General linear models were computed to assess the differences in symptoms and functioning between female and male cancer survivors and between survivors and an age-matched reference population.
Previous reports highlight the greater number of side effects that women experience during cancer treatment, but little is known about sex differences in symptoms and functioning in long-term survivors.
To adequately capture sex differences in symptoms and functioning in long-term cancer survivors, a comparison with a reference population should always be considered. In our study population, this adjustment highlighted a significant and unexpected long-term impact on male patients. Role and social functioning were especially impacted in male patients, emphasizing the need to further investigate these gendered domains.
The direct comparison between female and male cancer survivors identified more symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting (M = 5.0 versus. 3.2), insomnia (M = 26.1 versus. 15.9), anxiety (M = 5.2 versus. 4.2), and lower physical (M = 77.5 versus. 82.5) and emotional functioning (M = 83.4 versus. 86.3), in female survivors. However, comparison with an age-matched reference population demonstrated that several symptoms, such as fatigue, dyspnea, anxiety and depression, appeared to be more frequent in male patients. The investigation of functioning domains - compared with a reference population - highlighted further sex-specific differences. Female survivors experienced a moderate net loss in physical and cognitive functioning (-6.1 [95% CI = -8.1; -4,1] and -5.2 respectively [95% CI = -7; -3.5]), whereas male survivors displayed a significant net loss in role and social functioning compared to the reference population (-9.9 [95% CI = -11.2; -8.6] and -7.7 [95% CI = -9.6; -7.6] respectively).