Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 1209–1218 | Cite as

Validating self-report and proxy reports of the Dexamethasone Symptom Questionnaire -Chronic for the evaluation of longer-term corticosteroid toxicity

  • Meera AgarEmail author
  • Eng-Siew Koh
  • Emma Gibbs
  • Elizabeth H. Barnes
  • Elizabeth Hovey
  • Ann Livingstone
  • Kate Sawkins
  • Richard Chye
  • Melanie R. Lovell
  • Katherine Clark
  • Janette Vardy
  • Madeleine King
  • On behalf of the Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO)
Original Article



In brain tumours, brain metastases or advanced cancer; treatment with corticosteroids, side effects can add to symptoms. These are best assessed by patients, complementing clinical assessment. We assessed the feasibility and validity of the Dexamethasone Symptom Questionnaire–Chronic (DSQ-Chronic), patient and caregiver versions.


A longitudinal cohort study was conducted, collecting clinician-rated toxicity, performance status, dexamethasone dose and DSQ-Chronic (patient and caregiver versions) at baseline, then 2, 4 and 8 weeks later. Patients had a primary malignant brain tumour, brain metastases, or advanced cancer; Karnofsky Performance Status ≥40 and predicted survival ≥8 weeks. Analysis included questionnaire completion rates, frequency and severity of dexamethasone-attributable side effects, agreement between patient and caregiver ratings, comparison with clinician-rated toxicity and correlation with performance status.


Sixty-six patients were recruited (mean age 60 years), with their caregivers. Completion of questionnaires was over 90 % for the dyad at baseline but dropped over time, with caregiver completion rates higher at all timepoints. Agreement between patients and proxies was fair to moderate, and while proxies systematically overestimated symptom severity on DSQ-chronic total scores, the bias was less than 10 points. Patient and clinician agreement was higher for more objective symptoms.


The DSQ-Chronic is feasible when the patient is relatively well. As capacity to complete the DSQ-Chronic diminishes, caregivers can be proxy-raters. Clinicians capture corticosteroid toxicities, which may not be obvious to the patient. The DSQ-Chronic, patient and caregiver versions, are useful tools to be used with clinician assessment.


Cancer Corticosteroids Adverse effects Self-report Questionnaires Caregivers Adverse effects Karnofsky performance status Brain tumour 


Compliance with ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. The study was approved by the Cancer Institute NSW and Sydney Local Health District human research ethics committees.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The trial is partly funded through program grant 1037786 from the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia) to the Clinical Trials Centre.

Supplementary material

520_2015_2897_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meera Agar
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  • Eng-Siew Koh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  • Emma Gibbs
    • 3
  • Elizabeth H. Barnes
    • 3
  • Elizabeth Hovey
    • 2
    • 7
    • 8
  • Ann Livingstone
    • 3
  • Kate Sawkins
    • 3
  • Richard Chye
    • 9
  • Melanie R. Lovell
    • 10
    • 11
  • Katherine Clark
    • 12
    • 13
  • Janette Vardy
    • 10
    • 14
  • Madeleine King
    • 15
  • On behalf of the Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO)
  1. 1.Discipline of Palliative and Supportive ServicesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.South West Sydney Clinical SchoolUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials CentreUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Palliative Care, Braeside HospitalHammondCareSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Ingham Institute of Applied Medical ResearchSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Liverpool Cancer Therapy CentreLiverpool HospitalSydneyAustralia
  7. 7.Department of Medical OncologyPrince of Wales HospitalSydneyAustralia
  8. 8.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  9. 9.Sacred Heart Supportive and Palliative CareSt Vincent’s HospitalSydneyAustralia
  10. 10.Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  11. 11.Department of Palliative Care, Greenwich HospitalHammondCareSydneyAustralia
  12. 12.Department of Palliative CareCalvary Mater HospitalNewcastleAustralia
  13. 13.School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  14. 14.Concord Cancer CentreConcord HospitalSydneyAustralia
  15. 15.Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG), School of PsychologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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