What are the most important symptom targets when treating advanced cancer? A survey of providers in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)

Cancer Invest. 2003;21(4):526-35. doi: 10.1081/cnv-120022366.


We derived a set of brief, clinically relevant symptom indices for assessing symptomatic response to chemotherapy for advanced bladder, brain, breast, colorectal, head and neck, hepatobiliary/pancreas, lung, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Questions were extracted from a multidimensional cancer quality of life (QOL) measurement system, the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT). Surveys of disease-related symptoms were presented to expert physicians and nurses at 17 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) member institutions. In a two-step procedure, each expert narrowed the list to no more than five of the very most important to attend to when assessing the value of drug treatment for advanced disease. Symptoms endorsed at a frequency greater than chance probability were retained for the nine symptom indices. The resulting NCCN/FACT symptom indices are comprised of 6-15 items, depending on disease. Fatigue, pain, nausea, weight loss, worry about worsening condition, and contentment with current QOL were consistently selected by experts as priority symptoms across tumor sites. These nine tumor-specific symptom indices indicate the most important clinician-rated targets of chemotherapy for many advanced cancers. These results await validation in patient populations and examination of the extent to which changes in symptomatology translate into meaningful improvement to the patient.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Care Facilities*
  • Community Networks*
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Nurses
  • Pain / etiology
  • Physicians
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Weight Loss