Documenting the symptom experience of cancer patients

Teresa L. Deshields, Patricia Potter, Sarah Olsen, Jingxia Liu, Linh Dye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Cancer patients experience symptoms associated with their disease, treatment, and comorbidities. Symptom experience is complicated, reflecting symptom prevalence, frequency, and severity. Symptom burden is associated with treatment tolerance as well as patients' quality of life (QOL). Objectives: The purpose of this study was to document the symptom experience and QOL of patients with commonly diagnosed cancers. The relationship between symptoms and QOL was also explored. Methods: A convenience sample of patients with the five most common cancers at a comprehensive cancer center completed surveys assessing symptom experience (Memorial Symptom Assessment Survey) and QOL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy). Patients completed surveys at baseline and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months thereafter. This article describes the study's baseline findings. Results: Surveys were completed by 558 cancer patients with breast, colorectal, gynecologic, lung, or prostate cancer. Patients reported an average of 9.1 symptoms, with symptom experience varying by cancer type. The mean overall QOL for the total sample was 85.1, with results differing by cancer type. Prostate cancer patients reported the lowest symptom burden and the highest QOL. Limitations: The sample was limited in terms of racial diversity. Because of the method of recruitment, baseline data were collected 6-8 months after diagnosis, meaning that participants were at various stages of treatment. Conclusions: The symptom experience of cancer patients varies widely depending on cancer type. Nevertheless, most patients report symptoms, regardless of whether or not they are currently receiving treatment. Patients' QOL is inversely related to their symptom burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-223
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Supportive Oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


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