, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 617-626
Date: 23 Dec 2008

Symptom-monitoring behaviors of rural cancer patients and survivors

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Abstract

Goals of work

Symptom monitoring is described among rural cancer patients and survivors with comparison across study variables.

Materials and methods

An anonymous survey was mailed to adult cancer patients and survivors. Sampling was via a cancer center serving a region of a US rural-frontier state. Symptom monitoring was measured as keeping written track of symptoms, side effects, trends in how one is feeling, and/or limits to what one can do.

Main results

Useable response rate was 60.4% (134/222). Respondents were on average 62.3 years old, 53.0% were female, and 52.3% had earned less than a college degree. Breast (30.6%) and prostate (28.4%) cancers were most common. Symptom monitoring was reported and confirmed via tracking means, by 32.1% of respondents. Symptom monitoring was associated with “shared” or “passive” symptom management decisions, keeping written track of questions to ask providers and answers received, report of fatigue, and having received the suggestion or advice on how to monitor. Symptom monitoring was not associated with age, education, sex, number of symptoms, or being given something with which to monitor.

Conclusions

Symptom monitoring apart from intervention appears common among rural cancer patients and survivors. Findings support using multi-dimensional ways to inquire of, and refer to, such behavior. Data show symptom monitoring is more common among those suffering cancer-related fatigue, indicating opportunities for intervention to optimize monitoring for improved outcomes. Findings also suggest symptom-monitoring patients may rely on, or interact more with, providers regarding symptom management.