Revised self-reported symptom scale reliable for young children with cancer

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A revised form of the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS 7-12), to accommodate young children with cancer, is a reliable and valid tool for evaluating clinically relevant symptoms in this patient population, researchers report.

Dr. John J. Collins, from The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia, and associates administered the revised MSAS to 149 children, 7 to 12 years of age, who were undergoing cancer therapy. The research team compared the results of the MSAS (7-12) with the patient's medical records and reports from parents. They also used a visual analog scale to assess selected symptoms.

Children in this age group were reliably and consistently able to report clinically relevant data about their symptoms, Dr. Collins's group reports. In the 2 days before completing the MSAS (7-12), 35.6% of the children reported lethargy, 32.4% reported pain, and 31.1% reported insomnia. In addition, 25.0% reported itch, 22.3% reported loss of appetite, 20.1% reported worry, 13.4% reported nausea, and 10.1% reported sadness.

Most children completed the MSAS (7-12) with little difficulty in a short period of time, and most children (92.6%) rated the revised MSAS as "not at all" or only a "little difficult," according to the report in the January issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Dr. Collins and colleagues conclude that "this study demonstrates that children with cancer as young as 7 years can report clinically relevant and consistent information about their symptom experience."

They add that "systematic symptom assessment may be useful in future epidemiological studies of symptoms and in cancer chemotherapy drug trials."

J Pain Symptom Manage 2002;23:10-16.

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