Researchers say a handshake can help predict cancer survival rates

A new study found cancer patients' grip strength predicted survival rates.
By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 26, 2014 at 1:32 PM
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MONTREAL, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Sizing up someone's handshake has traditionally been the unscientific method employed by a boss trying to get a feel for a new hire, or a father trying to determine the suitability of his daughter's new boyfriend.

But new research suggests doctors could use a more precise handshake strength test to measure the health of patients battling cancer.

Presently, measuring the strength and quality of life of critical care cancer-fighters largely relies on a patient's self-reporting, as well as a doctor's analysis of factors like body weight. But the new handshake test could take the guesswork out of determining a patient's rate of decline.

As part of a new study -- the results of which were published in the journal Support Care Cancer -- 203 advanced-stage cancer patients were asked to use a new devise that measures peak grip strength. Weaker grip strengths were strongly correlated with lower survival rates.

"Because it requires minimal equipment, this method of evaluation is both portable and practical," {link:said Concordia University professor Robert Kilgour: "" target="_blank"}, who led the study with the help of his colleagues at the McGill Nutrition and Performance Laboratory.

"This measure is one of several to categorize patients according to the severity of their disease," Kilgour said. "It can help determine interventions they may need, whether clinical, nutritional or functional."

For those unfortunate enough to find themselves battling late-stage cancers, sometimes the best a healthcare provider can offer is an improved quality of life. Kilgour and his fellow researchers think this new tool can help doctors achieve that, by more accurately determining when a patient could benefit from subtle changes, like starting to exercise or a adopting a new diet -- changes improve a patient's mental and physical health.

[Concordia University]

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