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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • clusters;
  • nursing;
  • symptom severity

karabulu n., erci b., özer n. & özdemir s. (2010) Symptom clusters and experiences of patients with cancer. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(5), 1011–1021.

Abstract

Title. Symptom clusters and experiences of patients with cancer.

Aim.  This study is a report of a study to characterize the prevalence and severity of symptoms in patients with cancer and describing the clustering of symptoms.

Background.  Patients with cancer experience multiple symptoms caused by multiple factors, including progression of the cancer, acute physiological changes associated with treatment, delayed side effects of treatment and long-term consequences of the disease.

Methods.  A convenience sample of 287 patients with cancer at a Turkish university hospital completed a structured questionnaire on demographical characteristics and a symptom inventory for patients with cancer. Cluster analysis, principal components and internal consistency reliability analyses were used to analyse the data. The study was conducted in 2007.

Findings.  The most common symptoms experienced were fatigue, difficulty remembering, sadness, loss of appetite, lack of enjoyment of life, pain, distress, difficulty walking and dry mouth. The least experienced symptoms were shortness of breath and vomiting. Overall, 37·5% of the patients experienced moderate symptoms and 12·5% experienced severe symptoms. Among the severe symptoms were loss of appetite, fatigue, sadness, dry mouth and distress; however, 48% rated these as moderate or severe.

Conclusions.  Symptom cluster research is still in its early years. Further work is needed to reach a standard definition of a symptom cluster and a consensus of its criteria. Additional studies are needed to examine symptom clusters in cancer survivors. As individuals are living longer with the disease, comprehensive understanding of the symptom clusters that may be unique to cancer survivors is critical.