Symptom Characteristics Among Hospitalized Children and Adolescents With Cancer

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Abstract

Background:

Studies addressing physical and psychosocial symptoms among hospitalized children and adolescents with cancer are limited. Understanding commonly occurring symptoms and their associated characteristics across the hospitalization is needed to guide symptom management strategies.

Objective:

This study described the symptom experience of hospitalized children and adolescents with cancer. The study explored the frequencies of individual symptoms and the severity, duration, and associated distress of symptoms during the course of the hospitalization.

Methods:

Participants completed the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale 7–12 during each 12-hour shift of the 3-day/3-night data collection period.

Results:

Participants were 50 children and adolescents (mean age, 12.6 years; range, 7.1–18.6 years) receiving inpatient chemotherapy. Participants reported a mean of 2.75 symptoms at each assessment point and a mean of 5.42 different symptoms during their hospitalization. Mixed model analyses identified a significant fixed effect for study day, with participants reporting fewer symptoms (F = 8.4, P < .01), less symptom severity (F = 5.81, P < .01), and shorter duration (F = 6.67, P < .01) on day 3 relative to days 1 and 2. A fixed effect for study day was not present for symptom distress.

Conclusions:

Children and adolescents receiving inpatient chemotherapy experience multiple physical and psychosocial symptoms of moderate or greater severity and duration throughout the course of their hospitalization. Symptoms of greatest severity may not be those that are most distressing to the patient.

Implications for Practice:

Ongoing assessment that incorporates the multidimensional nature of symptoms is needed. Prioritizing interventions for symptoms that are most distressing to the patient may support a more meaningful, patient-centric approach to care.

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