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04.07.2019 Open Access

Exploring the patient experience of locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer to inform patient-reported outcomes assessment

Quality of Life Research
Joseph M. Herman, Helen Kitchen, Arnold Degboe, Natalie V. J. Aldhouse, Andrew Trigg, Mary Hodgin, Amol Narang, Colin D. Johnson
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-019-02233-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Pancreatic cancer and its treatments impact patients’ symptoms, functioning, and quality of life. Content-valid patient-reported outcome (PRO) instruments are required to assess outcomes in clinical trials. This study aimed to: (a) conceptualise the patient experience of pancreatic cancer; (b) identify relevant PRO instruments; (c) review the content validity of mapped instruments to guide PRO measurement in clinical trials.


Qualitative literature and interviews with clinicians and patients were analysed thematically to develop a conceptual model of patient experience. PRO instruments were reviewed against the conceptual model to identify gaps in measurement. Cognitive debriefing explored PRO conceptual relevance and patients’ understanding.


Patients in the USA (N = 24, aged 35–84) and six clinicians (from US and Europe) were interviewed. Pre-diagnosis, pain was the most frequently reported symptom (N = 21). Treatments included surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Surgery was associated with acute pain and gastrointestinal symptoms. Chemotherapy/chemoradiation side effects were cyclical and included fatigue/tiredness (N = 21), appetite loss (N = 15), bowel problems (N = 15), and nausea/vomiting (N = 15). Patients’ functioning and well-being were impaired. The literature review identified 49 PRO measures; the EORTC QLQ-C30/PAN26 were used most frequently and mapped with interview concepts. Patients found the EORTC QLQ-C30/PAN26 to be understandable and relevant; neuropathic side effects were suggested additions.


This is the first study to develop a conceptual model of patients’ experience of metastatic/recurrent pancreatic cancer and explore the content validity of the EORTC QLQ-C30/PAN26 following therapeutic advances. The EORTC QLQ-C30/PAN26 appears conceptually relevant; additional items to assess neuropathic side effects are recommended. A recall period should be stated throughout to standardise responses.

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