Measuring symptom prevalence, severity and distress of cancer survivors

Karis K F Cheng*, David, R. Thompson , W. M. Ling, Carmen W H Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to describe patients' self-reported symptom occurrence, symptom intensity and symptom distress at post-treatment of cancer therapy. A total of 243 outpatients with heterogeneous solid tumours within 12 months following the completion of initial cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) were assessed using the Chinese version of the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS). The mean age of the sample was 54.2 ± 12 and over half (57.6%) were women. The most common diagnoses were breast cancer (26.3%) and colon cancer (23.5%). The median number of symptoms per patient was 8 (range 0-23 symptoms) and the most prevalent were dry mouth (49.8%), lack of energy (46.9%), worry (39.1%), pain (35%) and feeling drowsy (33.7%). The mean symptom severity and distress scores measured on the MSAS were 1.92 ± 0.2 (range 1.7-2.3) and 1.37 ± 0.3 (.9-2), respectively. The prevalence of certain symptoms was influenced by the primary site of cancer. Pain, worrying and difficulty in swallowing were the most clinically important symptoms. In conclusion, intense physical and psychological symptoms were highly prevalent and distressing to cancer survivors. Comprehensive symptoms assessment is a requisite toward effective symptom control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-160
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Effectiveness in Nursing
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2005


  • Cancer survivors
  • Symptom distress
  • Symptom prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Nursing(all)

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