A quality of life subscale for terminally ill cancer patients

Anthony James Greisinger, The University of Texas School of Public Health


A subscale was developed to assess the quality of life of cancer patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. Phase I of this study identified the major concerns of 74 terminally ill cancer patients (19 with breast cancer, 19 with lung cancer, 18 with colorectal cancer, 9 with renal cell cancer, 9 with prostate cancer), 39 family caregivers, and 20 health care professionals. Patients interviewed were being treated at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center or at the Hospice at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. In Phase II, 120 patients (30 with breast cancer, 30 with lung cancer, 30 with colorectal cancer, 15 with prostate cancer, and 15 with renal cell cancer) rated the importance of these concerns for quality of life. Items retained for the subscale were rated as "extremely important" or "very important" by at least 60% of the sample and were reported as being applicable by at least two-thirds of the sample. The 61 concerns that were identified were formatted as a questionnaire for Phase III. In Phase III, 356 patients (89 with breast cancer, 88 with lung cancer, 88 with colorectal cancer, 44 with prostate cancer, and 47 with renal cell cancer) were interviewed to determine the subscale's reliability and sensitivity to change in clinical status. Both factor analysis and item response theory supported the inclusion of the same 35 items for the subscale. Internal consistency reliability was moderate to high for the subscale's domains: spiritual (0.87), existential (0.76), medical care (0.68), symptoms (0.67), social/family (0.66), and emotional (0.61). Test-retest correlation coefficients also were high for the domains: social/family (0.86), emotional (0.83), medical care (0.83), spiritual (0.75), existential (0.75), and symptoms (0.81). In addition, concurrent validity was supported by the high correlation between the subscale's symptom domain and symptom items from the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) scale (r = 0.74). Patients' functional status was assessed with the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance status rating. When ECOG categories were compared to subscale domains, patients who scored lower in functional status had lower scores in the spiritual, existential, social/family, and emotional domains. Patients who scored lower in physical well-being had higher scores in the symptom domain. Patient scores in the medical care domain were similar for each ECOG category. The results of this study support the subscale's use in assessing quality of life and the outcomes of palliative treatment for cancer patients in their last six months of life.

Subject Area

Public health|Oncology|Surgery|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Greisinger, Anthony James, "A quality of life subscale for terminally ill cancer patients" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9809542.