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J Clin Oncol. 2005 Oct 1;23(28):6949-56.

Communicating quality of life information to cancer patients: a study of six presentation formats.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Control and Epidemiology, Queen's Cancer Research Institute, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6. michael.brundage@krcc.on.ca



To determine which formats for presenting health-related quality of life (HRQL) data are interpreted most accurately and are most preferred by cancer patients. Patients often want a great deal of information about cancer treatments, including information relevant to HRQL. Clinical trials provide methodologically sound HRQL data that may be useful to patients.


In a multicenter study, 198 patients with previously treated cancer participated in a structured interview. Participants judged HRQL information presented in one textual and five graphical formats. Outcome measures included the accuracy of patients' interpretations and ease-of-use and helpfulness ratings for each format.


Correct interpretations ranged from 85% to 98% across formats (F = 10.3, P < .0001) with line graphs of mean HRQL scores over time being interpreted correctly most often. Older patients and less-educated patients were less likely to interpret graphs accurately (F = 7.3, P = .008; and F = 10.6, P = .001, respectively), but all groups were most accurate on simple line graphs. Multivariate analysis revealed that format type, participant age and education were independent predictors of accuracy rates. Patients' ratings also varied across formats both for ease of understanding scores (F = 12.1, P < .0001) and for helpfulness scores (F = 13.2, P < .0001), with line graphs being rated highest on both outcomes.


Patients generally prefer a simple linear representation of group mean HRQL scores, and can accurately interpret data presented in this format more than 98% of the time irrespective of their age group and educational level. The findings have important implications for the communication of clinical trial HRQL results.

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