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Symptom control in palliative care--Part I: oncology as a paradigmatic example.

Achieving the best quality of life for patients and their families when a disease becomes progressive and no longer remains responsive to curative therapy is the primary goal of palliative care. A comprehensive care plan focusing on control of physical symptoms as well as psychological, social, and spiritual issues then becomes paramount in that context. Symptom assessment and treatment are a principle part of palliative care. This paper is the first of three in a series addressing non-pain symptoms, which are frequently encountered in the palliative care populations. The most frequent non-pain symptoms are constipation, chronic nausea and vomiting, anorexia, dyspnea, fatigue, and delirium. As symptoms are subjective, their expression varies from patient to patient, depending on the individual patient's perception and on other factors such as psychosocial issues. While symptoms are addressed individually, patients frequently have multiple coexisting symptoms. Generally told, once the intensity of a symptom has been assessed, it is necessary to assess the symptom in the context of other symptoms such as pain, appetite, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Given that fact, adopting a multidimensional assessment allows for formulation of a more effective therapeutic strategy. More pertinently, this paper highlights the management of non-pain symptoms as an integral part of patient care and reviews the pathophysiologies, causes, assessment, and management of constipation, chronic nausea, and vomiting, each of which is common among the palliative care population.

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