Managing symptoms in advanced cancer

25th February 2020

Good symptom management in oncology is associated with improved patient and family quality of life and may even offer survival advantages.  In February researchers based at the Cicely Saunders Institute published research on four common and distressing symptoms experienced by patients with advanced cancer: pain, breathlessness, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue.

Their summary looked at the use of symptom assessment tools and demonstrated how a more routine and integrated approach to symptom management benefits patients.  The article also described a role for palliative care in supporting a holistic approach to symptom management alongside curative treatment and highlighted how multidisciplinary palliative care teams have been shown to improve patient outcomes.

Current ASCO guidelines recommend that patients with advanced cancer should receive dedicated palliative care services early in the disease course, and concurrent with active treatment.  There is evidence that symptom assessment tools can improve patient outcomes and possibly survival.

Henson LA, Maddocks M, Evans CE, Davidson M, Hick S, Higginson IJ.  Palliative Care and the Management of Common Distressing symptoms in advanced Cancer; Pain, Breathlessness, Nausea and Vomiting and Fatigue. J Clin Oncol 38, Feb 05 2020.