Cancer Symptom Cluster Management

Kristine L Kwekkeboom
Seminars in Oncology Nursing 2016, 32 (4): 373-382

OBJECTIVES: To discuss the importance of cancer symptom clusters in clinical practice, review evidence for symptom cluster interventions, and make recommendations for symptom cluster identification, patient education, and management in clinical practice.

DATA SOURCES: Primary research and review articles identified through CINAHL, PubMed, and PsycINFO databases.

CONCLUSION: Several studies have investigated interventions for multi-symptom management or have evaluated the secondary effects of a single-symptom intervention on related symptoms. To date, only five studies have tested an intervention designed to manage a specific cancer symptom cluster. Those studies used nonpharmacologic approaches (psycho-education, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and acupressure) to address the pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance symptom cluster, or the respiratory distress symptom cluster with some initial evidence of success. Further development and efficacy testing of symptom cluster interventions is needed.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Clinical practice can be guided by knowledge of individual and multi-symptom management, and clinical judgment regarding possible etiologies of cancer symptom clusters. Clinicians should be aware of co-occurring symptoms in their patients, educate and involve patients in identifying symptom clusters and aggravating/alleviating factors, and coordinate treatment recommendations using strategies that are likely to be beneficial across symptoms.

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