Personalized Goal for Dyspnea and Clinical Response in Advanced Cancer Patients

Sebastiano Mercadante, Claudio Adile, Federica Aielli, Gaetano Lanzetta, Kyriaki Mistakidou, Marco Maltoni, Luiz Guilherme Soares, Stefano De Santis, Patrizia Ferrera, Marta Rosati, Romina Rossi, Alessandra Casuccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The clinical response after comprehensive symptom management is difficult to determine in terms of a clinically important difference. Moreover, therapies should try to reach the threshold perceived by the individual patient for the determination of a favorable response to a treatment. Measures: The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Score (ESAS) was measured at admission (T0), and seven days after starting palliative care (T7). Patient Global Impression and Goal Response after one week of palliative care and its relation with the Personalized Dyspnea Goal were measured at T7. Intervention: Patients admitted to palliative care units underwent a comprehensive symptom assessment by a specialist palliative care team. At T0, patients were asked about their Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal on ESAS. One week later (T7), after a comprehensive palliative care treatment, Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goals were measured again. Patients were considered to have achieved a Patient Dyspnea Goal Response if dyspnea intensity (measured at T7) was equal or less than their expected Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal. At the same interval (T7), Patient Global Impression (improvement or deterioration) was measured. Outcomes: 279 patients were analyzed in this study. The mean Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal at T0 and T7 were 0.97 (SD 1.3), and 0.71 (SD 2.1), respectively. 263 patients (94.2%) indicated a Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal of ≤3 as a target at T0. Patients perceived a bit better, a better improvement, and a much better improvement with a mean decrease in dyspnea intensity of -2.1, -3.5, and -4.3 points on the dyspnea intensity scale, respectively. In 60 patients (21.5%), dyspnea intensity did not change, and in 4.7%, dyspnea intensity worsened. Patients perceived a Minimal Clinically Important Difference (little worse) with a mean increase in dyspnea intensity of 0.10, and they perceived a worse with a mean increase of 1.7 points. Higher dyspnea intensity at T0 and lower dyspnea intensity at T7 were independently related to Patient Global Impression. At T7, 93 (33.3%) patients achieved their Personalized Goal Response, based on Personalized Dyspnea Intensity. Patient Dyspnea Goal Response was associated with Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale score and Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal at T0, and inversely associated with dyspnea intensity at T0 and T7, and lower Karnofsky level. For Patient Dyspnea Goal Response, no significant differences among categories of dyspnea intensity were found (P>0.05). Conclusion: Patient Dyspnea Goal Response and Patient Global Impression seem to be relevant for evaluating the effects of a comprehensive management of symptoms, including dyspnea, assisting decision making process. Some factors may be implicated in determining the individual target and clinical response. A personalized symptom goal may translate in terms of therapeutic intervention, according to the achievement of the patients’ expectations. High values of dyspnea intensity, a lower Karnofsky level, as well as high level of Dyspnea Intensity Goal (that is less patients’ expectations) favor the achievement of the target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Advanced cancer
  • dyspnea
  • global impression of change
  • palliative care
  • personalized symptom goal
  • symptom assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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