Development of a symptom index for patients with primary brain tumors

Jin Shei Lai*, Sally E. Jensen, Jennifer L. Beaumont, Amy P. Abernethy, Paul B. Jacobsen, Karen Syrjala, Jeffrey J. Raizer, David Cella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objectives This study's primary goals included identifying the highest priority symptoms of patients with advanced brain tumors on treatment, comparing patient priority ratings with those of oncology experts, and constructing a brief symptom index using combined input to assess these symptoms and concerns. Methods Fifty patients with advanced primary brain tumors and 10 physician experts were recruited from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network institutions and community support agencies. By using a 40-item symptom checklist, patients first selected up to 10 of the most important symptoms/concerns to monitor when assessing the value of drug treatment for brain tumors, then nominated up to 5 of the very most important concerns, and finally generated additional symptoms/concerns. By using the same checklist as patients, physicians rated each symptom/concern as disease- or treatment-related. Results By using the combined input, a 24-item National Comprehensive Cancer Network/Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Brain Symptom Index (NFBrSI-24) was developed. The NFBrSI-24 showed good internal consistency (α = 0.84), significantly differentiated patients with different levels of functional status (F2,47 = 8.21; P <.001), and demonstrated good convergent validity with the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General functional, physical, social, emotional, and brain tumor-specific concerns (ρ = 0.59, 0.57, 0.40, 0.35, and 0.50, respectively; Ps < 0.05). Conclusions The NFBrSI-24, an index of the symptoms in advanced brain tumors perceived as most important by both patients and clinicians, improves upon existing measures of brain tumor symptoms through better satisfaction of regulatory requirements for measure development. The findings suggest good reliability and validity, indicating that the NFBrSI-24 is a promising brief assessment of high-priority advanced brain tumor symptoms for research and clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalValue in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • NFBrSI-24
  • health-related quality of life
  • primary brain tumor
  • symptom index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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