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Bisphosphonate Therapy for Metastatic Bone Disease: The Pivotal Role of Nurses in Patient Education

Margaret I. Fitch
Cathy Maxwell
ONF 2008, 35(4), 709-713 DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.709-713

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the role of bisphosphonate therapy for metastatic bone disease and skeletal-related events associated with some of the most common malignancies, and to highlight the importance and untapped potential of nurses intervening in the education and treatment of patients with these issues.

Data Sources: Contemporary evidence-based studies on the prevalence and impact on quality of life in metastatic bone disease and skeletal-related events, and all major clinical trials describing the efficacy of bisphosphonates for the treatment of metastatic bone disease.

Data Synthesis: Metastatic bone disease is a common consequence of cancer that impairs patient quality of life. Bisphosphonate therapy is effective in preventing or delaying complications associated with metastatic bone disease.

Conclusions: Bisphosphonate therapy can help preserve functional independence and improve the quality of life for many patients with cancer. Poor adherence to bisphosphonate therapy frequently is caused by patients not understanding how the drug works or why they need it. Premature discontinuation of bisphosphonate therapy leaves patients at risk for painful and debilitating skeletal-related events, which reduces their functional independence and impairs their activities of daily living.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses are uniquely positioned to educate patients and their caregivers about the need to begin or continue taking bisphosphonates for treatment of metastatic bone disease and associated skeletal-related events. Nurses often are the most appropriate healthcare providers for counseling patients with metastatic cancer about personal and family issues and for communicating the needs and concerns of patients to their physicians.

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