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Prevalence, Duration, Severity, and Distress of Chemotherapy-Related Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients With a Hematologic Malignancy

Catherine Cherwin
Kristine Kwekkeboom
ONF 2016, 43(5), 561-571 DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.43-05AP

Purpose/Objectives: To describe prevalence, duration, severity, and distress of chemotherapy-related gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and evaluate inclusion of clinically relevant GI symptom items on cancer symptom questionnaires.

Design: Longitudinal descriptive design.

Setting: Inpatient and outpatient hematology settings.

Sample: 105 adults with a hematologic malignancy receiving their third or subsequent cycle of chemotherapy.

Methods: Participants completed weekly assessments of 19 GI symptoms during a three-week period of chemotherapy. Descriptive statistics were calculated to summarize GI symptom prevalence, duration, severity, and distress ratings at each week. Findings were compared to item content of 12 cancer multisymptom questionnaires identified in the literature.

Main Research Variables: GI symptom prevalence, duration, severity, and distress.

Findings: Participants reported an average of three to five GI symptoms at each time point that were typically experienced as mild to moderate in duration, severity, and distress. Only 3 of 11 clinically relevant GI symptoms were included on more than half of the cancer symptom questionnaires.

Conclusions: Patients receiving chemotherapy experience a moderate GI symptom burden across a wide range of potential GI symptoms.

Implications for Nursing: Future research should include measures of clinically relevant GI symptoms that may be emerging with new cancer therapies and toxicity prevention protocols.

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