Conceptual issues in symptom clusters research and their implications for quality-of-life assessment in patients with cancer

J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2007:(37):39-46. doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgm003.


The majority of the research on the various aspects of symptom management has focused on individual symptoms. However, patients with cancer often experience multiple symptoms simultaneously as a result of their disease and treatment. In 2001, symptom management researchers began to study the impact of symptom clusters on patient outcomes. Over the past 6 years, a number of conceptual reviews as well as several research studies have been published on symptom clusters in oncology patients. This paper summarizes the conceptual basis for symptom cluster research, describes two conceptual approaches to symptom cluster research, and discusses the implications of symptom clusters for quality-of-life research. The paper concludes with an enumeration of the critical considerations that need to be addressed if this area of scientific inquiry is to move forward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Quality of Life*