Symptom Clusters Using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System in Patients With Bone Metastases: A Reanalysis Comparing Different Statistical Methods

Luluel Khan, Gemma Cramarossa, Emily Chen, Janet Nguyen, Liying Zhang, May Tsao, Cyril Danjoux, Elizabeth Barnes, Arjun Sahgal, Lori Holden, Flo Jon, Shaelyn Culleton, Edward Chow


Background: To determine whether symptom clusters in patients with bone metastases vary when extracted using three different statistical methods. To compare the temporal composition of symptom clusters in responders versus non-responders to palliative radiation treatment.

Methods: A previous dataset of 518 bone metastases patients who completed the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) was used in this study. Clusters derived using Principal Component Analysis (PCA) in our previous study were compared to symptom clusters extracted using Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (HCA) and Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). Clusters were derived at baseline, and 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after radiation treatment. The patient sample was further divided into responders versus non-responders to radiotherapy. The three statistical methods were performed to identify clusters in the subgroups at each time point.

Results: A complete consensus between HCA, EFA and PCA for the number and composition of symptom clusters was not reached at any time point. Furthermore, little correlation in clusters was found between the three statistical methods despite the use of an identical data set. As expected, different symptom clusters were observed in the responders and non-responders with all three statistical methods. In addition, clusters varied at each time point within each subgroup. Depression and anxiety were consistently found in the same cluster.

Conclusion: The quantity, composition, and occurrence of symptom clusters varied based on which statistical method was employed. The use of a common analytical method is necessary for consistency and comparison purposes in future symptom cluster research.

World J Oncol. 2012;3(1):23-32


Symptom cluster; Bone metastases; Statistical analysis; Edmonton symptom assessment system; Palliative radiotherapy.

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