Differences in the symptom experience of older oncology outpatients

Richie, Christine, Dunn, Laura, Paul, Steven, Cooper, Bruce, Skerman, Helen M., Merriman, John, Aouizerat, Bradley, Alexander, Kimberly, Yates, Patsy, Cataldo, Janine, & Miaskowski, Christine (2014) Differences in the symptom experience of older oncology outpatients. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(4), pp. 697-709.

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The relatively low number of older patients in cancer trials limits knowledge of how older adults experience symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.


This study evaluated for differences in the symptom experience across four older age groups (60–64, 65–69, 70–74, ≥75 years).


Demographic, clinical, and symptom data from 330 patients aged >60 years who participated in one Australian and two U.S. studies were evaluated. The Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale was used to evaluate the occurrence, severity, frequency, and distress of 32 symptoms commonly associated with cancer and its treatment.


On average, regardless of the age group, patients reported 10 concurrent symptoms. The most prevalent symptoms were physical in nature. Worrying was the most common psychological symptom. For 28 (87.5%) of the 32 Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale symptoms, no age-related differences were found in symptom occurrence rates. For symptom severity ratings, an age-related trend was found for difficulty swallowing. As age increased, severity of difficulty swallowing decreased. For symptom frequency, age-related trends were found for feeling irritable and diarrhea, with both decreasing in frequency as age increased. For symptom distress, age-related trends were found for lack of energy, shortness of breath, feeling bloated, and difficulty swallowing. As age increased, these symptoms received lower average distress ratings.


Additional research is warranted to examine how age differences in symptom experience are influenced by treatment differences, aging-related changes in biological or psychological processes, or age-related response shift.

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12 citations in Scopus
11 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 66450
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Geriatric oncology, symptoms, symptom assessment, cancer, symptom distress, multiple concurrent symptoms
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2013.05.017
ISSN: 0885-3924
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Deposited On: 22 Jan 2014 01:53
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2014 04:24

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