Symptom burden in cancer survivors 1 year after diagnosis: a report from the American Cancer Society's Studies of Cancer Survivors

Cancer. 2011 Jun 15;117(12):2779-90. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26146. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Background: Few studies have examined risk for severe symptoms during early cancer survivorship. By using baseline data from the American Cancer Society's Study of Cancer Survivors-I, the authors examined cancer survivors with high symptom burden, identified risk factors associated with high symptom burden, and evaluated the impact of high symptom burden on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) 1 year postdiagnosis.

Methods: Participants were enrolled from 11 state cancer registries approximately 1 year after diagnosis and were surveyed by telephone or mail. The outcomes measures used were the Modified Rotterdam Symptom Checklist and the Profile of Mood States-37 (to assess symptom burden) and the Satisfaction with Life Domains Scale-Cancer (to assess HRQoL).

Results: Of 4903 survivors, 4512 (92%) reported symptoms related to their cancer and/or its treatment. Two-step clustering yielded 2 subgroups, 1 with low symptom burden (n = 3113) and 1 with high symptom burden (n = 1399). Variables that were associated with high symptom burden included lung cancer (odds ratio [OR], 2.27), metastatic cancer (OR, 2.05), the number of comorbid conditions (OR, 1.76), remaining on active chemotherapy (OR, 1.93), younger age (OR, 2.31), lacking insurance/being underinsured (OR, 1.57), having lower income (OR, 1.61), being unemployed (OR, 1.27), and being less educated (OR, 1.29). Depression, fatigue, and pain had the greatest impact on HRQoL in survivors with high symptom burden, who also had lower HRQoL (P < .0001).

Conclusions: More than 1 in 4 cancer survivors had high symptom burden 1 year postdiagnosis, even after treatment termination. These results indicate a need for continued symptom monitoring and management in early post-treatment survivorship, especially for the underserved.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • American Cancer Society
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Survivors