Cognitive Impairment Does Not Impact Patient Self-Reporting of Cancer Symptoms

Among patients with advanced cancer, cognitive impairment did not interfere with patients’ ability to self-report nine major symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Researchers conducted an analysis of the longitudinal European Palliative Care Cancer Symptom study of 1,047 adults (mean age, 62.9 years; 54.4% were female) with incurable cancer in specialized palliative care from 30 centers in 12 countries. At baseline and one-month follow-up, patients self-reported about cognitive status via the Mini-Mental State Examination short version, as well as nine major symptoms (pain, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, appetite, breathlessness, depression, anxiety, and well-being) via the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System.

Cognitive impairment did not impact validity, reliability of reporting

Most patients had cancer of the digestive organs (26.6%), breast cancer (21.6%), and lung cancer (21.2%). A total of 181 patients (17.3%) had cognitive impairment, which was associated with worse self-reported tiredness, drowsiness, appetite, and depression.

Reliability and validity of symptom reporting were similar between people with and without cognitive impairment, except breathlessness showed a weaker relation to health-related quality of life in patients with cognitive impairment.

“[The] findings were robust in sensitivity analyses and after controlling for potential confounders,” the researchers concluded.