Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 21(2): 113-120, 2001.
Passik SD, Kirsh KL, Rosenfeld B, et al.
The side effects of chemotherapy are feared by cancer patients as they begin their treatment. In this study, we investigated patients' anticipatory fears about chemotherapy. We then re-assessed these fears three to six months after the initial interview for patients who received chemotherapy during that time. We also examined symptom distress at these intervals. Hair loss, vomiting, infection, nausea, and weight loss were ranked as the most feared side effects of cancer treatment for the group as they began treatment. Patients beginning chemotherapy endorsed frequent or intense levels of fatigue, worrying about the future, pain, and sleep problems. No differences were found in the reporting of symptoms based on gender, age, or educational level. While changes in symptom distress over the study period were unremarkable, changes in fears about chemotherapy were of interest. The most feared symptoms were re-ordered following the treatment experience. The endorsement of nausea and vomiting, alopecia, and loss of appetite decreased significantly. Thirty-five percent fewer chemotherapy patients reported vomiting as one of their most feared side effects; 45% fewer patients who received anti-emetics reported vomiting as one of their most feared side effects. Effective treatments, such as those that have been developed to treat acute chemotherapy-related emesis, can relieve the fears of patients on treatment. We conclude that patients' fears about treatment are fluid and malleable. Patients' fears of suffering related to chemotherapy treatment change in response to the provision of adequate management. We discuss the implications of these findings for palliative care education.
Rheinische Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn