A prospective evaluation of symptom prevalence and overall symptom burden among cohort of critically ill cancer patients

Mayank Gupta, Malvinder Singh Sahi, A. K. Bhargava, Vineet Talwar

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Gross physiological perturbations necessitating the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission might exacerbate the already existing or initiate bothersome symptoms among cancer patients. There is a lack of conclusive evidence concerning the symptomatic experience among this subgroup of cancer patients particularly so in the Indian population. The aim of this prospective observational study was to elucidate the symptom prevalence and overall symptomatic distress among critically ill cancer patients at the time of admission to a medical ICU. Methods: We prospectively evaluated 110 consecutive cancer patients at the time of admission to our medical ICU for the presence and intensity of symptoms using a modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS). The patients/caregivers were also enquired regarding the most bothersome symptom in the past 1 week and the presence of 'symptom associated sleep disturbance.' The primary outcome was the prevalence of patients with moderate (ESAS ≥ 40) and severe (ESAS ≥ 70) symptomatic distress. Results: The average age was 52.49 years with 75.45% of the respondents in the economically productive age group (21-60 years). Carcinoma breast (19.35%) and lung (14.58%) were the most common cancers among females and males, respectively. 87.27% and 60% of the patients had advanced cancer and multi-organ dysfunction, respectively. About 76.36% patients were able to complete ESAS either by themselves or with caregiver's assistance within first 24 h of ICU admission. The mean ESAS distress score was 48.04 (0-81) with 72.72% of the patients having moderate-severe symptomatic distress. Loss of appetite (92.73%) and nausea (54.55%) were the most common and the least common reported symptoms, respectively. Pain was the most common and 'most distressing symptom' reported by 40% of patients with 64.55% patients reporting one or more symptoms severe enough to interfere with their sleep. Conclusion: ESAS is a user-friendly cognitive aid to make the healthcare team cognizant of the symptom existence and overall symptomatic burden among cancer patients with gross physiological perturbations. The high prevalence of moderate-severe symptom distress requires the concomitant provision of palliative and intensive care among this group of cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalIndian Journal of Palliative Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01-04-2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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