Accuracy of Recall in Health-Related Quality-of-Life Assessment Among Men Treated for Prostate Cancer

Published in: Journal of Clinical Oncology, v. 17, no. 9, Sep. 1999, p. 2882-2888

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1999

by Mark Litwin, Kimberly A. McGuigan

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PURPOSE: To determine the accuracy of patient recall of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in men who have undergone radical prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Patients enrolled onto a longitudinal, observational cohort study of HRQOL after radical prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer were asked to assess their baseline HRQOL before surgery. They were later asked to recall their baseline HRQOL at intervals of 7 to 37 months after surgery. The two views of baseline HRQOL (actual and recall) were compared. HRQOL was measured with established instruments (the RAND 12-item Short-Form Health Survey and a validated short form of the University of California Los Angeles Prostate Cancer Index) that addressed impairment in the physical, mental, urinary, bowel, and sexual domains. RESULTS: Overall, recall was poor. Patients tended to remember their baseline HRQOL as being better than it actually was. This effect was particularly striking for urinary and sexual function. Greater education and younger age diminished this effect in some domains. The effect did not vary with time since surgery. CONCLUSION: Men undergoing radical prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer do not accurately recall their pretreatment HRQOL when asked several months or years later. This recall bias is constant throughout a period of 6 months to 3 years after surgery. By collecting data before treatment and observing subjects longitudinally, investigators can ensure that HRQOL changes are analyzed in the context of any impairment that may have been present at baseline. If a longitudinal study is not feasible, then great caution must be used if patients are asked to recall their pretreatment HRQOL.

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