Important differences and meaningful changes for the functional assessment of cancer therapy-cognitive function (FACT-COG)

M. L. Bell, H. M. Dhillon, V. J. Bray, J. L. Vardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: We estimated clinically important, group-level differences in self-reported cognitive function for the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog) instrument. We also investigated individual level change that could be considered meaningful for cancer survivors affected by cognitive impairment following chemotherapy, and that could be used for responder analyses. We used data from a multi-site randomized controlled trial in 242 participants that evaluated a web-based intervention for improving self-reported cognitive functioning in adult cancer survivors who reported cognitive impairment and who had adjuvant chemotherapy in the previous 6– 60 months. We used anchor and distribution methods to estimate a range of clinically important differences (CIDs) and investigated meaningful change thresholds (MCTs) for the FACT-Cog and the Perceived Cognitive Impairments (PCI) subscale, post-intervention and at six-month follow-up with empirical cumulative distribution functions. Our primary anchor was the patient reported cognitive function subscale of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life-Cognitive Functioning Scale (EORTC-CF). Results: Most participants were female (95%) breast cancer survivors (89%). Correlation of changes in the FACT-Cog and the EORTC-CF were 0.55 post-intervention and 0.61 at follow-up. Anchor-based CID estimates for the FACT-Cog using our primary anchor were 11.3 points (post) and 8.8 (follow-up), which corresponds to a standardized effect size of 0.49 and 0.38; 8.6% and 6.6% of the total scale’s range. Anchor-based CID estimates for the FACT-Cog PCI subscale were 7.4 (post) and 4.6 points (follow-up), which corresponds to a standardized effect size of 0.50 and 0.31; 10.3% and 6.4% of the PCI range). Empirical cumulative distribution functions of change in FACT-Cog demonstrating possible MCTs showed that anchor change of none, minimally better and much better were well separated. Conclusions: The CID and MCT estimates from this manuscript can help in the design, analysis and interpretation of self-reported cognitive function in cancer patients and survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalJournal of Patient-Reported Outcomes
StatePublished - 2018


  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinically important difference
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cumulative distribution function
  • FACT-Cog
  • Minimal clinically important difference
  • Oncology
  • Quality of life
  • Responder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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