Patient-reported symptom burden in routine oncology care: Examining racial and ethnic disparities

Cancer Rep (Hoboken). 2021 Jun 24:e1478. doi: 10.1002/cnr2.1478. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Racial and ethnic disparities are well-documented in cancer outcomes such as disease progression and survival, but less is known regarding potential disparities in symptom burden.

AIMS: The goal of this retrospective study was to examine differences in symptom burden by race and ethnicity in a large sample of cancer patients. We hypothesized that racial and ethnic minority patients would report greater symptom burden than non-Hispanic and White patients.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A total of 5798 cancer patients completed the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale-revised (ESAS-r-CSS) at least once as part of clinical care. Two indicators of symptom burden were evaluated: (1) total ESAS-r-CSS score (i.e., overall symptom burden) and (2) number of severe symptoms (i.e., severe symptomatology). For patients completing the ESAS-r-CSS on multiple occasions, the highest score for each indicator was used. Zero-inflated negative binomial regression analyses were conducted, adjusting for other sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. Symptomology varied across race. Patients who self-identified as Black reported higher symptom burden (p = .016) and were more likely to report severe symptoms (p < .001) than self-identified White patients. Patients with “other” race were also more likely to report severe symptoms than White patients (p = .032), but reported similar total symptom burden (p = .315). Asian and Hispanic patients did not differ from White or non-Hispanic patients on symptom burden (ps > .05).

CONCLUSION: This study describes racial disparities in patient-reported symptom burden during routine oncology care, primarily observed in Black patients. Clinic-based electronic symptom monitoring may be useful to detect high symptom burden, particularly in patients who self-identify their race as Black or other. Future research is needed to reduce symptom burden in racially diverse cancer populations.

PMID:34165256 | DOI:10.1002/cnr2.1478