Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine

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Managing Symptoms for Cancer Patients

Management of cancer and its symptoms, as well as side-effects of cancer treatment, has changed a great deal in the past few years. With very few exceptions, symptom management, often called palliative care, can be an integral part of cancer treatment with the goal of achieving optimal patient quality of life.

This management of symptoms requires:

  • good communication between the health care provider and the patient,
  • letting the health care team know about a symptom before it becomes uncontrollable. This lets the practitioners intervene early and can save the patient unnecessary distress as well as shorten time to bring the symptom back under control.

All too often health care providers hear stories in which patients tried to "wait out" a symptom such as pain only to learn about its existence when the patient is in intolerable distress. Both the disease and its treatment can be physically, socially, and emotionally debilitating, - all of which individually influence the other. So, if the patient feels pain, he/she is less likely to engage in social activities, become more isolated, feel depressed and then feel increased pain.

Further, these symptoms can be complex and often present in "clusters" such as nauseas, fatigue, depression, and lack of appetite leading to dangerous weight loss. The Simmons Cancer Institute provides a multi-disciplinary approach to symptom management on an outpatient basis, but the treatment teams from Simmons also work closely with their hospital partners to provider an even broader approach by referring patients to the hospital-based palliative care teams specifically designated for good symptom management.

For more information contact the Side by Side Cancer Wellness Program at the Simmons Cancer Institute at 217.545.5408 or visit our web site at:

www.siumed.edu/cancer/sidebyside.html