Components That Influence Assessment and Management of Cancer-Related Symptoms: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Sofie Jakobsson

Tor Ekman

Karin Ahlberg

symptom management, communication, meta-analysis
ONF 2008, 35(4), 691-698. DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.691-698

Purpose/Objectives: To describe, from an interdisciplinary perspective, how cancer-related symptoms are assessed and managed in a cancer care setting and to describe the components that influence symptom management.

Design: Descriptive, qualitative, and cross-sectional.

Setting: An oncology and hematology department in a university hospital in western Sweden.

Sample: 31 nurses, physicians, physical therapists, dietitians, occupational therapists, and a medical social worker who all cared for patients with cancer-related symptoms.

Methods: Data were collected in focus groups and analyzed using content analysis.

Main Research Variables: Cancer-related symptoms and symptom management.

Findings: Symptom management, from a clinician's perspective, is a process involving different components. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: creating a relationship with the patient, understanding the patient, assessing the symptoms, and cooperating as a team.

Conclusions: This study highlights several components that should be discussed in an effort to enhance symptom management. Discussion will help ensure that barriers to effective symptom management are acknowledged and addressed when implementing clinical routines designed to enhance management of different symptoms. In addition, these components should be acknowledged in the interest of facilitating adherence to symptom management strategies. Whether these components are important factors from patients' perspectives remains unknown.

Implications for Nursing: Enhancing symptom management is not only a matter of implementing clinical guidelines; it must be preceded by teamwork, assessment, and evaluation method discussions and the ability to create a relationship with the patient. Nurses should be aware that their understanding of a patient affects their assessment of that patient's symptom experience.

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