Symptom prevalence and severity in palliative cancer medicine

BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2023 Dec 7;13(e2):e270-e272. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2020-002357.


Objectives: To establish symptom prevalence and associated distress in a large cohort of UK patients with cancer referred to a palliative care team.

Methods: This is a secondary analysis of two large data sets of patients with advanced cancer. Each patient had completed the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale-Short Form to assess 32 symptoms and related distress. Data frequencies were conducted in Excel.

Results: 1507 patients were recruited. The most common symptoms were lack of energy (89%), pain (83%), feeling drowsy (77%) and dry mouth (70%). 67% of patients had psychological symptoms, with 31% of all patients having significant psychological distress.

Conclusions: Symptom burden is significant in palliative patients with cancer. Structured symptom assessment with access to relevant supportive services is recommended.

Keywords: cancer; clinical assessment; symptoms and symptom management.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palliative Care
  • Prevalence
  • Symptom Assessment