Background Cancer patients do not voluntarily reveal all symptoms they experience. By asking them about symptoms using a structured systematic method, clinicians can find out about other symptoms. However, does systematic symptom assessment result in improved symptom control?
Objectives To determine and identify the potential association between systematic symptom assessment and a cancer patient's well-being and to gather information for future research.
Methods Electronic bibliographic databases were searched to July 2009. Search sources included MEDLINE, EMBASE, HealthSTAR, CINAHL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Health and Psychosocial Instruments and Proquest Dissertations and Theses. Criteria for inclusion were: published full papers in English reporting controlled clinical trials or systematic reviews examining the effects of systematic symptom assessment on cancer patients' well-being.
Results 54 articles required full paper review by two reviewers, from which another 13 papers were reviewed arising from the reference lists. Five studies conducted from 1991 to 2006 met the eligibility criteria and were included in the analysis. The studies found that in the implementation of systematic symptom assessment in oncology care provided improved care in terms of pain management, overall symptom distress, quality of life, and aspects of patient and physician communication.
Conclusions Given limitations presented in the five studies, it is impossible to draw firm conclusions. However, this review is able to conclude that systematic symptom assessment provides valuable information in the overall assessment of the patient and its feedback to the clinicians do project an overall improvement in the patient's physical and mental well-being.
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