This study identified attributes that define the content domain of quality of life in a sample of 41 cancer patients with chronic pain. Patients were asked four open-ended questions about the meaning of quality of life, what contributes to a good or poor quality of life, and how pain influences quality of life. Content analysis of responses revealed three categories of attributes that embrace the quality-of-life content domain. The first category is physical well-being. It includes general functioning and disease/treatment-specific attributes. The second is psychological well-being. It includes affective-cognitive attributes, coping ability, meaning of pain and cancer, and accomplishment attributes of quality of life. The third is interpersonal well-being. It incorporates social support and social/role functioning attributes. Replications of the current study in other groups of patients may yield data to support a two-part, multidimensional quality-of-life instrument. A norm-referenced measure can be used to evaluate quality of life in terms of attributes that are salient regardless of the disease or treatment. A domain-referenced measure may be used to evaluate attributes whose salience is dependent on specific disease, treatment, or life events.
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