Do Cohabitants Reliably Complete Questionnaires for Patients in a Terminal Cancer Stage when Assessing Quality of Life, Pain, Depression, and Anxiety?

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2021 Apr 1;479(4):792-801. doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001525.


Background: Patients with bone metastases often are unable to complete quality of life (QoL) questionnaires, and cohabitants (such as spouses, domestic partners, offspring older than 18 years, or other people who live with the patient) could be a reliable alternative. However, the extent of reliability in this complicated patient population remains undefined, and the influence of the cohabitant's condition on their assessment of the patient's QoL is unknown.

Questions/purposes: (1) Do QoL scores, measured by the 5-level EuroQol-5D (EQ-5D-5L) version and the Patient-reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) version 1.0 in three domains (anxiety, pain interference, and depression), reported by patients differ markedly from scores as assessed by their cohabitants? (2) Do cohabitants' PROMIS-Depression scores correlate with differences in measured QoL results?

Methods: This cross-sectional study included patients and cohabitants older than 18 years of age. Patients included those with presence of histologically confirmed bone metastases (including lymphoma and multiple myeloma), and cohabitants must have been present at the clinic visit. Patients were eligible for inclusion in the study regardless of comorbidities, prognosis, prior surgery, or current treatment. Between June 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017 and between October 1, 2017 and February 26, 2018, all 96 eligible patients were approached, of whom 49% (47) met the selection criteria and were willing to participate. The included 47 patient-cohabitant pairs independently completed the EQ-5D-5L and the eight-item PROMIS for three domains (anxiety, pain, and depression) with respect to the patients' symptoms. The cohabitants also completed the four-item PROMIS-Depression survey with respect to their own symptoms.

Results: There were no clinically important differences between the scores of patients and their cohabitants for all questionnaires, and the agreement between patient and cohabitant scores was moderate to strong (Spearman correlation coefficients ranging from 0.52 to 0.72 on the four questionnaires; all p values < 0.05). However, despite the good agreement in QoL scores, an increased cohabitant's depression score was correlated with an overestimation of the patient's symptom burden for the anxiety and depression domains (weak Spearman correlation coefficient of 0.33 [95% confidence interval 0.08 to 0.58]; p = 0.01 and moderate Spearman correlation coefficient of 0.52 [95% CI 0.29 to 0.74]; p < 0.01, respectively).

Conclusion: The present findings support that cohabitants might be reliable raters of the QoL of patients with bone metastases. However, if a patient's cohabitant has depression, the cohabitant may overestimate a patient's symptoms in emotional domains such as anxiety and depression, warranting further research that includes cohabitants with and without depression to elucidate the effect of depression on the level of agreement. For now, clinicians may want to reconsider using the cohabitant's judgement if depression is suspected.

Clinical relevance: These findings suggest that a cohabitant's impressions of a patient's quality of life are, in most instances, accurate; this is potentially helpful in situations where the patient cannot weigh in. Future studies should employ longitudinal designs to see how or whether our findings change over time and with disease progression, and how specific interventions-like different chemotherapeutic regimens or surgery-may factor in.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult Children / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Bone Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / psychology
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Cancer Pain / diagnosis*
  • Cancer Pain / physiopathology
  • Cancer Pain / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*