Impact of cultural and linguistic factors on symptom reporting by patients with cancer

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010 May 19;102(10):732-8. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djq097. Epub 2010 Mar 26.


Background: Patient reporting of the severity and impact of symptoms is an essential component of cancer symptom management and cancer treatment clinical trials. In multinational clinical trials, cultural and linguistic variations in patient-reported outcomes instruments could confound the interpretation of study results.

Methods: The severity and interference of multiple symptoms in 1433 cancer patients with mixed diagnoses and treatment status from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and Korea were measured with psychometrically validated language versions of the M. D. Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI). Mixed-effect ordinal probit regression models were fitted to the pooled data to compare the magnitude of the effect of "country" (nation and linguistic factors) with between-subjects effects on symptom reporting, adjusted for patient and clinical factors (age, sex, performance status, and chemotherapy status).

Results: For the pooled sample, fatigue, disturbed sleep, distress, pain, and lack of appetite were the most severe patient-reported MDASI symptoms. The magnitude of the variance of the country random effects was only one-fourth to one-half of the interpatient variation (sigma(2) = 0.23-0.46) for all symptoms, except nausea and vomiting.

Conclusions: Cultural and linguistic variations in symptom reporting among the five language versions of the validated MDASI were limited. Ordinal probit modeling provided a simple mechanism for accounting for cultural and linguistic differences in patient populations. The equivalence among MDASI translations in this study suggests that symptom ratings collected from various cultural and language groups using the MDASI can be interpreted in a similar way in oncology practice, clinical trials, and clinical research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anorexia / psychology
  • China
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Karnofsky Performance Status
  • Korea
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Russia
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Translating
  • United States