Changes in symptom clusters in patients undergoing radiation therapy

Esther Kim, Thierry Jahan, Bradley E. Aouizerat, Marylin J. Dodd, Bruce A. Cooper, Steven M. Paul, Claudia West, Kathryn Lee, Patrick S. Swift, William Wara, Christine Miaskowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Goals of work: The goals of the study were to determine the occurrence rates for and the severity of symptoms at the middle, end, and 1 month after the completion of radiation therapy (RT), to determine the number and types of symptom clusters at these three time points, and to evaluate for changes over time in these symptom clusters. Materials and methods: Symptom occurrence and severity were evaluated using the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS) in a sample of patients (n∈=∈160) who underwent RT for breast or prostate cancer. At each time point, an exploratory factor analysis was done to determine the number of symptom clusters (i.e., symptom factors) based on the MSAS symptom severity ratings. Main results: The majority of the patients were male and married with a mean age of 61.1 years. The five symptoms with the highest occurrence rates across all three time points were lack of energy, pain, difficulty sleeping, feeling drowsy, and sweats. Although the number of symptoms and the specific symptoms within each symptom cluster were not identical across the three time points, three relatively similar symptom clusters (i.e., "mood-cognitive" symptom cluster, "sickness-behavior" symptom cluster, "treatment-related", or "pain" symptom cluster) were identified in this sample. The internal consistency coefficients for the mood-cognitive symptom cluster and sickness-behavior symptom cluster were adequate at ≥ 0.68. Conclusions: Three relatively stable symptom clusters were found across RT. The majority of the symptom cluster severity scores were significantly higher in patients with breast cancer compared to patients with prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1383-1391
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Breast cancer
  • Exploratory factor analysis
  • Prostate cancer
  • Radiation therapy
  • Sickness behavior
  • Symptom clusters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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