Predictors of high symptom burden in gynecologic oncology outpatients: who should be referred to outpatient palliative care?

Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Mar;132(3):698-702. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2014.01.038. Epub 2014 Jan 25.


Objective: To characterize symptom prevalence in gynecologic oncology outpatients and identify predictors of high symptom burden.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of a convenience sample of symptom surveys from gynecologic oncology patients at a single cancer center over a 20-month period. The survey was based on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and assessed pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue and well-being. Information on demographics, disease, treatment and history of chronic pain, depression or anxiety was abstracted from medical records. Data was analyzed with descriptive and t-test statistics.

Results: We analyzed 305 surveys from unique patients. Symptom prevalence (severity score>0/10) ranged from 60.1% (pain) to 79.7% (fatigue). Prevalence of moderate to severe symptoms (score≥4/10) ranged from 32% (pain) to 47% (fatigue). There were no differences in symptom burden by site or stage of cancer. Patients with no active disease (38%) were less symptomatic. There was a trend toward higher symptom burden in patients younger than 50years. There was higher symptom burden in patients receiving cancer treatment or with a pre-existing history of pain, anxiety or depression. Patients who expressed an interest in being seen by a symptom management service also had higher symptom burden.

Conclusions: Gynecologic oncology outpatients have a high symptom burden regardless of stage and site of cancer. Patients who are young, on treatment or have a history of chronic pain, depression or anxiety have a higher symptom burden. Consideration should be given to targeting these patients for outpatient palliative care services.

Keywords: Gynecologic cancer; Palliative care; Symptom assessment; Symptom burden; Symptom management.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / physiopathology*
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Symptom Assessment / methods