Falls: descriptive rates and circumstances in age-unspecified patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer

Abstract

Purpose

Falls can occur in older cancer patients, but few studies have examined falls in an age-unspecified group of patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer. Because these patients are often administered neuropathy-inducing agents, are weak, and can develop orthostatic symptoms, examining falls appears relevant.

Methods

Electronic medical records were used to examine falls and their circumstances in locally advanced esophageal cancer patients treated with chemotherapy and radiation and often surgery.

Results

Among 300 patients, 62 (21%) suffered a fall, yielding 6 falls per 100 patient years. The median age at first fall was 64 years (range 31 to 83). The median time from cancer diagnosis to first fall was 11 months (range 0 to 107). Forty-two patients (68%) who fell had active cancer; 20 (32%) were cancer-free. Fall-related injuries occurred in 42 patients and included fractures, hematomas, and other musculoskeletal events. Eighteen patients (29%) fell repeatedly. Neuropathy, general weakness, and orthostatic symptoms were associated with falls (“He does state his neuropathy is more bothersome…. He did have a fall last week….” “He has been increasingly weak to the point where he fell down last week….” “Upon rising… [he] felt like somebody had put a sheet over his eyes, felt very lightheaded, and fell to the floor….”). At times, falls occurred under commonplace circumstances, such as slipping on ice or tripping on an underfoot pet.

Conclusion

Regardless of patient age, clinicians should remain vigilant for fall risk in adult patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer.

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Funding

This work was funded in part by the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation and by R01CA195473.

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Correspondence to Aminah Jatoi.

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Childs, D.S., Yoon, H.H., Eiring, R.A. et al. Falls: descriptive rates and circumstances in age-unspecified patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer. Support Care Cancer 29, 733–739 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05511-z

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Keywords

  • Falls
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Younger patients
  • Neuropathy
  • Fracture