Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 791–801 | Cite as

Symptoms and treatment burden associated with cancer treatment: results from a cross-sectional national survey in the U.S.

  • David H. Henry
  • Hema N. Viswanathan
  • Eric P. Elkin
  • Shana Traina
  • Shawn Wade
  • David Cella
Original Article



To examine the prevalence of chemotherapy-or radiotherapy-associated side effects and related treatment burden, and correlates of fatigue and missed work days among cancer patients.

Materials and methods

A cross-sectional survey was conducted using a dual sampling frame of 63,949 cancer patients (35,751 from an online panel and 28,198 from telephone listings) ≥18 years receiving chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy at the time of the survey or during the previous 12 months. Data were collected on cancer type, time since diagnosis, treatment side effects, visits, caregiver burden, missed work days, and sociodemographic characteristics. Data are presented only for patients receiving cancer treatment at the time of the survey.

Main results

Of the 15,532 patients (24%) who responded to the screening questionnaire, 1,572 met the eligibility criteria and 1,569 completed the survey; 814 received chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy at the time of the survey. The most common side effects were fatigue (80%), pain (48%), and nausea/vomiting (48%). Patients spent 4.5 h, on average, per visit to treat side effects. Approximately 43% of the patients were employed; of these, 78% were actively working. Employed patients missed, on average, 18 work days annually for side effect treatment. Females, younger and unemployed patients, and those with higher levels of anxiety and depression experienced more fatigue; patients with a greater number of side effects endured more missed work days.


In addition to the symptomatic experience of side effects, patients reported a considerable time burden for treatment. It is important to consider supportive care strategies that may effectively reduce side effects and their associated treatment burden.


Chemotherapy Side effects Fatigue Absenteeism Survey 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Henry
    • 1
  • Hema N. Viswanathan
    • 2
  • Eric P. Elkin
    • 3
  • Shana Traina
    • 2
  • Shawn Wade
    • 4
  • David Cella
    • 5
  1. 1.Joan Karnell Cancer CenterPennsylvania HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Amgen Inc.Thousand OaksUSA
  3. 3.ICON Clinical ResearchSan FranciscoUSA
  4. 4.Harris Interactive Inc.ClaremontUSA
  5. 5.Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer CenterNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineEvanstonUSA

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