The care provided by health professionals, the support of family and friends, and the knowledge or access to relevant information are considered by cancer patients as key factors in the self-management of complications associated with chemotherapy treatment.
This is the conclusion of a systematic review of studies carried out by Bruno Magalhães, a researcher at CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research, a nurse at the Portuguese Institute of Oncology of Porto and professor at the Santa Maria School of Health, in Porto.
The article is entitled “Cancer patient’s experiences on self-management of chemotherapy treatment-related symptoms: A systematic review and thematic synthesis”, and it has been published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing.
The goal was to synthesize the factors that can hinder, facilitate, or support self-management of chemotherapy symptoms, according to studies published worldwide.
Although the symptoms are diverse and influenced by the type of tumor, the state of the disease, or the specific treatment, the symptoms most frequently reported include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss (alopecia), changes in taste, pain, and peripheral neuropathy.
“When symptoms are poorly managed, they can lead to interruptions or delays in treatments and reduced adherence, with a negative impact on the survival of the patients themselves”, highlights Bruno Magalhães.
Among the “facilitators” of self-management of symptoms associated with chemotherapy are the patient’s personal characteristics (such as wanting to control and overcome the disease and its effects), hope, and integration in aid groups.
The sensation of lack of control of the symptoms and the physical and emotional effects of the symptoms act as obstacles to an effective self-management of the symptoms associated with the chemotherapy treatment.
The lack of information is associated with worse adherence to treatments
The care of professionals such as doctors and nurses and the support of family members, friends, and neighbors are crucial, but they do not dispense knowledge and access to information by patients.
Whether provided by professionals or obtained from other patients or from printed materials or online, information is essential for cancer patients, helping them to better cope with the symptoms of chemotherapy.
Conversely, the lack of knowledge and information is associated with difficulties in identifying complications, problems related to poor adherence to therapy, or ineffective management of the therapy prescribed in SOS.
According to the CINTESIS researcher, “the nature of symptoms related to chemotherapy requires nursing care designed and adapted to patients’ experiences. This care must include the sharing of information and knowledge, as well as the promotion of support groups and the involvement of the family or significant person ”.
However, he says, “the information must be given according to the patient’s ability to understand it and when deemed necessary. Nurses must explain what symptoms can occur so that patients understand and accept them ”.
This study also had the participation of other researchers from CINTESIS, namely Carla Fernandes, Lígia Lima, and Célia Santos (coordinator), as well as the participation of the researcher Juan Martinez-Galiano, from the University of Jaén, in Spain.
Bruno Magalhães is also the first author of another study, published in Cancer Nursing, according to which mobile applications can assist in monitoring complications associated with chemotherapy treatment, and so they have been involved in the development of the project iGestSaúde – chemotherapy module, which aims at making a mobile application available for use by patients during chemotherapy.