A systematic review of symptom assessment scales in children with cancer

BMC Cancer. 2012 Sep 26;12:430. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-12-430.


Background: The objective was to describe symptom assessment scales that have been used in children with cancer.

Methods: We conducted electronic searches of OVID Medline and EMBASE in order to identify all symptom assessment scales that have been used in pediatric cancer. Two reviewers abstracted information from each identified study. Data collected included study demographics and information related to the instrument and children enrolled. We also collected information about the purpose of instrument administration and whether treatment was altered as a result of this information.

Results: Fourteen studies were identified which evaluated eight different symptom assessment scales. Eight studies used child self-report and all studies included children on active treatment for cancer although 4 studies also included children following completion of treatment. The most common purpose of instrument administration was to measure the prevalence of symptom burden (n = 8). None of the 14 studies used the scale to screen for symptoms and none changed patient management on the basis of identified symptoms.

Conclusions: We failed to identify any symptom assessment scales that were used as a symptom screening tool. There is a need to develop such a tool for use in children with cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Symptom Assessment / methods*