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Keywords:

  • coping;
  • intervention;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • paediatric cancer;
  • symptom severity

Abstract

Aims

To evaluate the acceptability and efficacy of a psycho-educational intervention designed to improve effective coping and reduce symptom severity in children with cancer.

Background

Cancer treatments increase survival rates and also cause physical and psychological effects on children with cancer. A psycho-educational intervention is used to assist children and adolescents with these effects and its efficacy has been described in several studies.

Design

A randomized controlled trial.

Methods

Participants being treated were recruited and randomly assigned to two groups from September 2011–February 2013 in Taiwan. The intervention group received a psycho-educational intervention in addition to standard care, while the control group received only standard care. Each participant was assessed using a paediatric cancer coping scale and perceived symptom severity was evaluated at three time points (baseline, 1 month and 3 months). A repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to estimate the effects of intervention. Qualitative findings were analysed using content analysis.

Results

No significant difference in coping scores was found between groups, but the experimental group reported significantly lower scores in gastrointestinal problems and pain. Most symptoms decreased significantly over time in both groups, except for gastrointestinal problems. The scores in pain, bone marrow suppression and body image showed significant interaction effects between groups on changes over time. Qualitative results reported that participants evaluated the intervention positively, especially about receipt of psychological support and learnt coping skills.

Conclusions

The psycho-educational intervention administered was acceptable for children with cancer and was found to reduce gastrointestinal problems and pain.