Quality of Life Is Worse for Patients with Heart Failure than Many Cancers, Study Finds


Participants with heart failure measured lower on physical and mental component scores than patients with lung, colon, breast, or prostate cancer, highlighting their worser health-related quality of life.

Quality of Life Is Worse for Patients with Heart Failure than Cancer, Study Finds

Credit: Feinberg School of Medicine

Heart failure leads to a poor quality of life—worse than the quality of life for patients with cancer—according to new research.1

A new study compared the quality of life of patients with heart failure compared to patients with lung, colon, breast, or prostate cancer. Previously, the quality of life between patients with heart failure and cancer had not been explored, and the investigators wanted to know which one most affected an individual’s lifestyle.

The investigators, led by Faraz Ahmad, MD, of Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, conducted a pooled analysis of Medicare Health Outcomes Survey data between 2016 – 2020. Participants were > 65 years old with either a history of heart failure or in active treatment for lung, colon, breast, or prostate cancer. The sample of patients with heart failure, which included 71,025 individuals, was 54% of female and 16% identified as Black.

The team used 2 health-related quality of life measures, generated by the Veterans RAND-12: a physical component score and a mental component score. Shah and colleagues used a pairwise t-test to compare physical and mental component scores.

The findings, presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found patients with heart failure had a lower mean physical and mental component score (P <.001). Nearly half (53%) of patients with heart failure reported > 10 physically unhealthy days, which was a greater rate than was observed with lung (51%), colon (41%), breast (31%), or prostate cancer (28%). Moreover, 32% of patients reported > 10 mentally unhealthy days, which was greater than patients with lung (28%), colon (25%), breast (21%), or prostate cancer (20%).

“The pervasiveness of low [health-related quality of life] in [heart failure] underscores the need to implement evidence-based interventions to improve physical and mental health,” wrote the investigators.

In an interview with HCPLive, the investigator, Sadiya Khan, MD, of Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, gave her thoughts on how the results of the study underscored the need for urgency when treating heart failure.

“One of the big things when we we're talking about doing this study was that cancer carries this weight, right?” Khan said. “Like when you say someone has cancer, everyone’s like, ‘Oh.’”

She continued by saying how the poor quality of life of cancer is “well-accepted.” Yet, doctors may not view heart failure the same way, even though she believes it is just as bad as advanced cancer. Khan emphasized the importance of clinicians and the public being aware of the poor quality of life people with heart failure face.

“The 'Get Your Mammogram!' and the rallying cries around screening for cancer need to come to heart failure, or at least to heart disease in general, but particularly heart failure, where screening and prevention are possible,” Khan said. “We need to start thinking about it the same way.”


Shan, K, Khan, S, Baldridge, A, et al. Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients with Heart Failure is Worse Than in Patients with Cancer: Analysis of the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey 2016-2020. American Heart Association. November 6, 2023. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circ.148.suppl_1.16014. Accessed November 12, 2023.

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