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Symptom prevalence and severity in palliative cancer medicine
  1. Kath Webber1,
  2. Andrew Neil Davies1,
  3. Charlotte Leach1 and
  4. Melanie Waghorn2
  1. 1Department of Supportive and Palliative Care, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guildford, UK
  2. 2Department of Palliative Care, St Catherine's Hospice, Crawley, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kath Webber, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guildford GU2 7XX, Surrey, UK; kwebber1{at}


Objectives To establish symptom prevalence and associated distress in a large cohort of UK patients with cancer referred to a palliative care team.

Methods This is a secondary analysis of two large data sets of patients with advanced cancer. Each patient had completed the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale-Short Form to assess 32 symptoms and related distress. Data frequencies were conducted in Excel.

Results 1507 patients were recruited. The most common symptoms were lack of energy (89%), pain (83%), feeling drowsy (77%) and dry mouth (70%). 67% of patients had psychological symptoms, with 31% of all patients having significant psychological distress.

Conclusions Symptom burden is significant in palliative patients with cancer. Structured symptom assessment with access to relevant supportive services is recommended.

  • cancer
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • clinical assessment

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  • Contributors Each author made considerable contribution to the study and met the full requirements for authorship. KW is the guarantor responsible for the overall content and is the primary study chief investigator. She takes responsibility for planning, conduct and reporting of work. AND was chief investigator on opioid-induced constipation study and was involved in planning of the work, data analysis and reporting. CL and MW were involved in the conduct of the work and reporting of data.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.