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Cancer Care Might Impair Driving

Head-and-neck cancer patients displayed more weaving, slower brake times

MONDAY, Sept. 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Side effects of treatment for head and neck cancer may cause patients to experience problems with driving skills, a new study suggests.

Reduced head and neck mobility, cognitive impairment, pain and psychological distress are among the side effects that can impair driving.

"Driving is a complex task that requires adequate cognitive, psychomotor and visuoperceptualmotor functions that work together. These functions can be compromised to a greater or lesser extent in patients with cancer in the head and neck region who have received cancer treatment," wrote researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

They evaluated the driving skills of 10 head and neck cancer patients (average age 56) and a control group of 56 people in the general community (average age 48).

The average brake reaction time and steering variability (vehicle offset from the center of the driving line in inches) was significantly greater in the cancer patients (3,134.92 milliseconds and 271.26 inches) than in the control group (2,299.8 milliseconds and 46.45 inches).

The two groups had similar results in average speed, total number of collisions, and on simulator driving performance scores.

The study is published in the September issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers recommended further research into how cancer treatment affects patients' driving skills and safety.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about head and neck cancer.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Sept. 17, 2007
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