de Raaf, P.J., de Klerk, C., Timman, R., Busschbach, J.J., Oldenmenger, W.H., & van der Rijt, C.C. (2013). Systematic monitoring and treatment of physical symptoms to alleviate fatigue in patients with advanced cancer: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31, 716–723.doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.44.4216
To investigate whether nurse monitoring and protocol management of physical symptoms alleviates fatigue
Patients were randomized to receive either usual care or nurse management patient-tailored treatment using treatment management protocols. In the experimental group, nurse specialists recorded interventions for multiple physical symptoms. During outpatient meetings with the nurse, symptom severity was monitored. When any symptoms were rated ≥ 4 on an 11-point scale, the nurse referred the patient to the oncologist for further assessment and initiation of treatment according to palliative care guidelines, such as medication adjustment, other referrals, or other interventions. Nurses managed as many symptoms independently as possible. Highly specific interventions for pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, anorexia, dyspnea, cough, and dry mouth were used. No specific interventions aimed at fatigue were identified. Patients met with the nurse at 1, 2–4, 5–7, and 8–10 weeks. Study assessments were done via mail at baseline and one, two, and three months.
A randomized controlled trial design was used.
Patients reported that the most troublesome symptoms were pain, dyspnea, and anorexia. Patients had a median of two symptoms with NRS scores of at least 4 at baseline. MFI scores for general fatigue declined significantly over time in the intervention group compared to controls, with effect size ranging from 0.26 to 0.35 (p = 0.01). NRS fatigue scores also demonstrated decline compared to usual care controls (p < 0.001). BFI scores were not reported. Overall symptom burden was reported to decrease over time in the intervention group, while there was no change in controls (maximal effect size = 0.64, p = 0.002). Anxiety decreased in the intervention group compared to controls (maximal effect size = 0.32, p < 0.001).
Findings suggest that comprehensive management and monitoring for symptom control by nurse specialists was effective in reducing anxiety and fatigue in patients with cancer.
Findings suggest that continued symptom management and monitoring with a protocol approach can be effective for reducing symptoms overall, and reducing fatigue and anxiety. There were no specific intervention approaches identified that were used for fatigue, so the suggestion is that reducing other symptoms can have a positive impact on fatigue. There were also no specific interventions identified for anxiety, but anxiety also declined over time. These results suggest that ongoing monitoring and attention to patients alone may positively impact these symptoms.