Learning Objective 1: describe the importance of symptom clusters in caring cancer patients for symptom assessment and management.
Learning Objective 2: describe the influencing factors of symptom clusters and implications of those factors in research as well as practice.
Methods: Data were retrieved from the databases (Medline and CINHAL, 1995-2005) with combinations of key words: cancer, breast cancer, symptoms, fatigue, depression/psychological distress, sleep/insomnia, correlates, predictors, and associated factors. For additional literature, the snowball literature sampling was used.
Results: This work identified the potential influencing factors of symptom clusters: (a) demographic characteristics (age, gender, employment status, marital status); (b) disease-related characteristics (stage of cancer, cancer site, comorbid condition); (c) treatment-related characteristics (treatment type, treatment trajectory, time lapse since treatment); and (d) situational factors (functional status, psychological distress).
This study indicates that a certain symptom cluster may occur at a specific time period and/or to patients with a specific characteristic. The literature review also indicates the lack of study on influencing factors on symptom clusters. Examining the influencing factors may reveal conditions in which we can observe a certain symptom cluster, and can even suggest a clue why symptoms are clustering. Future research need to examine whether the potential influencing factors have actual impact.
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