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Do physical symptoms predict psychological issues in patients with cancer?: the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale—Short Form
  1. Katherine Webber1,
  2. Andrew Neil Davies2 and
  3. Melanie Waghorn3
  1. 1Department of Supportive and Palliative Care, Royal Surrey Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guildford, UK
  2. 2Department of Palliative Medicine, Trinity College / University College Dublin, Our Lady's Hospice, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3Department of Palliative Care Research, National Institute of Health Research, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katherine Webber, Supportive and Palliative Care, Royal Surrey Hospital Foundation Trust, Guildford, GU2 7XX, UK; kath{at}


Objectives This study aimed to determine if individual physical symptoms were predictive of psychological disorders.

Methods This study was a secondary analysis of data from two studies which used the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale—Short Form (MSAS-SF) to assess both physical and psychological symptoms. Correlation between individual symptoms and the validated psychological subscale (MSAS-PSYCH) were performed using Spearman’s coefficient. Linear regression analysis was performed to assess whether correlated symptoms predicted the presence of psychological disorders.

Results 1507 patients’ data were analysed. The physical symptoms of pain, lack of energy, drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, ‘feeling bloated’ and ‘I don’t look like myself’ were correlated with MSAS-PSYCH. Other physical symptoms existed independently to psychological symptoms. None of these physical symptoms were independently predictive of a mood disorder.

Conclusions This study presents a large data set evaluating psychological symptom correlations. There are certain physical symptoms which correlate with mood disorders, but these are not independently predictive. It is not known whether the correlative data are cause or effect. Comprehensive assessment remains essential to assess all problems.

Trial registration number The trial registered was at National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network Portfolio (Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) ID 30723) Integrated Research Application System Identification (IRAS) ID 198753.

  • Cancer
  • Psychological care
  • Symptoms and symptom management

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to all aspects of the study.

  • 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.