Quality of life and non-pain symptoms in patients with cancer

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Aug;38(2):216-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2008.08.014. Epub 2009 Jun 28.


To measure the prevalence of non-pain physical symptoms and psychological symptoms in patients with cancer, to investigate the impact of physical and psychological symptoms on their quality of life (QoL), and to inquire whether treatment had been received for the complaints/symptoms, a representative sample of 1,429 cancer patients were recruited and classified according to tumor type and treatment status [i.e., (1a) curative treatment >6 months ago, (1b) curative treatment <or=6 months ago, (2) palliative antitumor treatment, and (3) treatment no longer feasible]. QoL and non-pain symptoms were measured by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)-C30 version 3. We added two items: (1) Did you have a dry mouth? and (2) Did you feel listless? We also asked whether the patients had received treatment for their symptoms. Depression and anxiety were measured by the Dutch version of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to detect differences in global QoL between patients with different types of cancer. When ANOVA was significant, post hoc tests (Tukey) were performed to identify significant differences among cancer types. Linear regression analyses (forced entrance procedure) were performed to investigate the influence of physical and psychological symptoms on global QoL. The prevalence of moderate-to-severe symptoms increased significantly with each disease group. Vomiting and irritability were the least prevalent symptoms, and fatigue and worries were the most prevalent symptoms in all groups. Patients in Group 1 (curative treatment) experienced symptoms that were independent of cancer type. Patients in Group 2 (palliative treatment) experienced symptoms that varied with cancer type. QoL decreased significantly each step from Group 1 through 3. Fatigue, appetite loss, constipation, dry mouth, depression, and anxiety had independent negative influences on QoL. Patients with gastrointestinal cancer, malignant lymphoma, and other hematological malignancies had significantly poorer QoL than patients with prostate cancer. In 45%-90% of patients, symptoms remained untreated. Non-pain physical symptoms and psychological symptoms are frequent in patients with cancer at all disease phases. Many symptoms remain untreated. Systematic recording of symptom intensity should be mandatory, irrespective of the phase of disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Netherlands
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult