Background: We previously identified published scales for symptom assessment in pediatric cancer patients. The objectives of this study were to identify if any of these scales were suitable for use or adaptation as a self-report symptom screening tool, and if not, to begin the process of creating a new tool.
Methods: A focus group of ten healthcare professionals with expertise in pediatric cancer symptom management and a patient advocate were convened. First, the group identified the optimal properties of a symptom screening tool for pediatric cancer patients. Next, the previously identified symptom assessment scales were evaluated against these properties. As none of the existing scales were adequate for symptom screening, a nominal group technique was used to identify the most important symptoms for inclusion in a new symptom screening tool.
Results: Optimal properties of a symptom screening tool included minimal respondent burden, inclusion of 15 items or less, and inclusion of the most burdensome symptoms. None of the previously identified scales were adequate because they lacked content validity and were too long or would be too hard for children to understand. Nominal group technique identified 15 items to be included; an initial draft was developed and named the Symptom Screening in Pediatrics (SSPedi) Tool.
Conclusions: This study identified the lack of an appropriate symptom screening tool for use by pediatric cancer patients. A preliminary version of SSPedi was developed. Subsequent work will ensure that it is understandable by children and evaluate its psychometric properties.