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01-04-2014 | Pediatric QOL Special Section | Uitgave 3/2014

Quality of Life Research 3/2014

Considering quality of life for children with cancer: a systematic review of patient-reported outcome measures and the development of a conceptual model

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 3/2014
Samantha J. Anthony, Enid Selkirk, Lillian Sung, Robert J. Klaassen, David Dix, Katrin Scheinemann, Anne F. Klassen



An appraisal of pediatric cancer-specific quality-of-life (QOL) instruments revealed a lack of clarity about what constitutes QOL in this population. This study addresses this concern by identifying the concepts that underpin the construct of QOL as determined by a content analysis of all patient-reported outcome (PRO) instruments used in childhood cancer research.


A systematic review was performed of key databases (i.e., MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychINFO) to identify studies of QOL in children with cancer. A content analysis process was used to code and categorize all items from generic and cancer-specified PRO instruments. Our objective was to provide clarification regarding the conceptual underpinnings of these instruments, as well as to help inform the development of theory and contribute to building a conceptual framework of QOL for children with cancer.


A total of 6,013 English language articles were screened, identifying 148 studies. Ten generic and ten cancer-specific PRO instruments provided 957 items. Content analysis led to the identification of four major domains of QOL (physical, psychological, social, and general health), with 11 subdomains covering 98 different concepts. While all instruments reflected items relating to the broader domains of QOL, there was substantial heterogeneity in terms of the content and variability in the distribution of items.


This systematic review and the proposed model represent a useful starting point in the critical appraisal of the conceptual underpinnings of PRO instruments used in pediatric oncology and contribute to the need to place such tools under a critical, yet reflective and analytical lens.

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