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Over the past 30 years, quality of life has evolved into a respected construct for evaluating the effectiveness of treatment in health care. The field has grown in methodological rigor and in the sophistication of instrument development. Researchers in oncology have been at the forefront in the evaluation of quality of life, recognizing the need to assess outcomes more broadly than tumor response and length of survival. In 1985, quality of life was identified as a key parameter of efficacy to be used for approval of new anticancer drugs for advanced metastatic disease in the USA. In 1988, the Division of Cancer Treatment (CTEP) of the National Cancer Institute (USA) identified improving quality of life as one of its highest priorities. Quality-of-life endpoints are integral components of cancer clinical trials throughout the world, and are required for all phase III clinical trials by the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group.
But what is quality of life? The literature contains a bewildering array of characterizations. The term “quality of life” is commonly used to mean health status, physical functioning, symptoms, psychosocial adjustment, well-being, life satisfaction, or happiness. Introducing the term “health-related quality of life” has not solved the problem. Because the terms have meaning in everyday language, they are frequently used without explicit definition. At the heart of the problem is the very nature of the idea of quality of life, which is uniquely personal in its essence.
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