Perceptions of patients with breast and colon cancer of the management of cancer-related pain, fatigue, and emotional distress in community oncology

Tenbroeck G. Smith, Alyssa N. Troeschel, Kathleen M. Castro, Neeraj K. Arora, Kevin Stein, Joseph Lipscomb, Otis W. Brawley, Ryan M. McCabe, Steven B. Clauser, Elizabeth Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


PURPOSE Pain, fatigue, and distress are common among patients with cancer but are often underassessed and undertreated. We examine the prevalence of pain, fatigue, and emotional distress among patients with cancer, as well as patient perceptions of the symptom care they received. PATIENTS AND METHODS Seventeen Commission on Cancer–accredited cancer centers across the United States sampled patients with local/regional breast (82%) or colon (18%) cancer. We received 2,487 completed surveys (61% response rate). RESULTS Of patients, 76%, 78%, and 59% reported talking to a clinician about pain, fatigue, and distress, respectively, and 70%, 61%, and 54% reported receiving advice. Sixty-one percent of patients experienced pain, 74% fatigue, and 46% distress. Among those patients experiencing each symptom, 58% reported getting the help they wanted for pain, 40% for fatigue, and 45% for distress. Multilevel logistic regression models revealed that patients experiencing symptoms were significantly more likely to have talked about and received advice on coping with these symptoms. In addition, patients who were receiving or recently completed curative treatment reported more symptoms and better symptom care than did those who were further in time from curative treatment. CONCLUSION In our sample, 30% to 50% of patients with cancer in community cancer centers did not report discussing, getting advice, or receiving desired help for pain, fatigue, or emotional distress. This finding suggests that there is room for improvement in the management of these three common cancer-related symptoms. Higher proportions of talk and advice among those experiencing symptoms imply that many discussions may be patient initiated. Lower rates of talk and advice among those who are further in time from treatment suggest the need for more assessment among longer-term survivors, many of whom continue to experience these symptoms. These findings seem to be especially important given the high prevalence of these symptoms in our sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1666-1676
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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