Metastatic breast cancer patients' expectations and priorities for symptom improvement

Support Care Cancer. 2018 Nov;26(11):3781-3788. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4244-8. Epub 2018 May 7.


Purpose: Little research has examined cancer patients' expectations, goals, and priorities for symptom improvement. Thus, we examined these outcomes in metastatic breast cancer patients to provide patients' perspectives on clinically meaningful symptom improvement and priorities for symptom management.

Methods: Eighty women with metastatic breast cancer participated in a survey with measures of comorbidity, functional status, engagement in roles and activities, distress, quality of life, and the modified Patient-Centered Outcomes Questionnaire that focused on 10 common symptoms in cancer patients.

Results: On average, patients reported low to moderate severity across the 10 symptoms and expected symptom treatment to be successful. Patients indicated that a 49% reduction in fatigue, 48% reduction in thinking problems, and 43% reduction in sleep problems would represent successful symptom treatment. Cluster analysis based on ratings of the importance of symptom improvement yielded three clusters of patients: (1) those who rated thinking problems, sleep problems, and fatigue as highly important, (2) those who rated pain as moderately important, and (3) those who rated all symptoms as highly important. The first patient cluster differed from other subgroups in severity of thinking problems and education.

Conclusions: Metastatic breast cancer patients report differing symptom treatment priorities and criteria for treatment success across symptoms. Considering cancer patients' perspectives on clinically meaningful symptom improvement and priorities for symptom management will ensure that treatment is consistent with their values and goals.

Keywords: Expectation; Metastatic breast cancer; Patient-centered; Priorities; Symptom; Treatment outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cancer Pain / psychology
  • Cancer Pain / therapy
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Patient Care Planning*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Perception*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome