Gender differences in symptoms experienced by advanced cancer patients: a literature review

Erin Wong, Gillian Bedard, Natalie Pulenzas, Breanne Lechner, Henry Lam, Nemica Thavarajah, Lori Holden, Edward Chow, Natalie Lauzon



INTRODUCTION: Advanced cancer patients are multi-symptomatic and require attentive palliative care. As gender differences are apparent in multiple aspect of everyday life, this literature review aims to determine the gender differences seen in the population of advanced cancer patients and the symptoms that they experience.

METHODS: A literature review was conducted using the OvidSP Medline database from 1946 to November 2012. Randomized, prospective or retrospective cohort studies on advanced cancer patients who were undergoing any type of palliative treatments (palliative radiation, chemotherapy) or those in which palliative treatments have failed (antalgic treatment) were included. The patient population, tools/questionnaire used and gender differences in symptoms found statistically or qualitatively significant in the respective studies were extracted.

RESULTS: Of the 163 studies resulting from the literature search, nineteen publications were identified. Gender differences in multiple symptoms were discovered. Gender differences were commonly found in symptoms of emotional changes, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) anxiety, tension, sleep problems and pain.

CONCLUSION: At present, gender differences seen in the symptoms experienced by advanced cancer patients continues to be inconclusive. Further study investigating gender differences in the symptoms experienced by advanced cancer patients as the primary endpoint is recommended.


Gender differences; Advanced cancer; Palliative care

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