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A multilevel analysis of longitudinal ordinal data: evaluation of the level of physical performance of women receiving adjuvant therapy for breast cancer

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Longitudinal health-related quality-of-life (QOL) data are often collected as part of clinical studies. Here two analyses of QOL data from a prospective study of breast cancer patients evaluate how physical performance is related to factors such as age, menopausal status and type of adjuvant treatment. The first analysis uses summary statistic methods. The same questions are then addressed using a multilevel model. Because of the structure of the physical performance response, regression models for the analysis of ordinal data are used. The analyses of base-line and follow-up QOL data at four time points over two years from 257 women show that reported base-line physical performance was consistently associated with later performance and that women who had received chemotherapy in the month before the QOL assessment had a greater physical performance burden. There is a slight power gain of the multilevel model over the summary statistic analysis. The multilevel model also allows relationships with time-dependent covariates to be included, highlighting treatment-related factors affecting physical performance that could not be considered within the summary statistic analysis. Checking of the multilevel model assumptions is exemplified.
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Keywords: Breast cancer; Multilevel model; Ordinal data; Proportional odds; Quality of life; Repeated measurements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA 2: Swiss Institute for Applied Cancer Research, Bern, Switzerland 3: Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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