Measuring impact of nursing intervention on cancer patients' ability to control symptoms

Dan E. Benor, Vered Delbar, Tamar Krulik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Cancer patients' ability to control symptoms and to maintain reasonable quality of life is limited due to lack of knowledge, guidance, and instructions from health care providers, who usually refrain from transferring responsibility for the treatment to the patient. The present study describes a measured effect of a structured nursing intervention in which nurses were trained to apply the self-care model to 48 ambulatory cancer patients under chemo- or radiotherapy or both. The intervention included 10 structured home visits to each patient during 3 months, in which the nurse assessed symptoms and advised, guided, supported, and educated the patient in the relevant areas. The symptoms were quantitatively assessed using the Symptom Control Assessment (SCA) instrument, which was developed and validated specifically for this study. The SCA relates to 16 signs, symptoms, and complaints that encompass both the universal and the deviation- from-health needs, in addition to anxiety, body image, and sexuality. The instrument allows either the patient or the nurse to rate the severity of the complaint, the patient's independence in controlling it, the patient's perception of the familial and external help extended to him or her, and the knowledge of the symptom and its control possessed by the patient. Also, the SCA allows comparing the patient's ratings with the professional view of the visiting nurse. The SCA was proven to be a highly reliable and valid instrument. The results indicate that the intensity of the complaints decreased in the experimental group during the 3-month period while they increased in the matched control group, creating a considerable difference between the two groups on multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). On t-tests, significant improvement was found in 15 out of the 16 symptoms, including pain. The greatest reduction was found in the 'psychosocial symptoms,' namely anxiety, sociability, body image, and sexuality. Similarly, the patients' independence, knowledge, and perception of familial help increased in the experimental group and declined in the control group. Perhaps the most meaningful change was a significant increase in the ability of the experimental patients to assume responsibility for their own treatment as it is reflected by the increase of the independence ratings for all 16 symptoms. This is in sharp contrast to the decrease in 15 of the 16 symptoms among control patients. The results suggest that the self-care approach is effective also in improving the quality of life for unstable cancer patients by reduction of suffering and increase in controlling capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-334
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 1998


  • Cancer
  • Instrument
  • Measuring symptom control
  • Self-care
  • Symptom control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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