Between 2007 and 2011, a team of doctors led by Ethan Basch of the University of North Carolina, US, tested whether cancer patients could be enlisted into monitoring their own symptoms and, if so, whether doing so produced any clinical benefits.
A total of 766 patients, all of whom had metastatic solid tumours, volunteered to take part in the trial. Half of the group was assigned to standard cancer care protocols. The other was also given standard care, but also asked to use an electronic system to self-report the severity and change of 12 listed symptoms.
Reporting any change to symptoms automatically generated a notice sent to attending nurses and doctors.
The researchers assessed the results of the trial in June 2016 after 517 of 766 participants had died. They found that the median survival time for the self-reporting cohort was 31.2 months, an average of five months longer than the standard care group.
Basch and his colleagues suggest that the improved survival time was because 77% of the symptom change notifications resulted in specific actions taken by nurses. These included “calls to provide symptom management counseling, supportive medications, chemotherapy dose modifications, and referrals”.
“Electronic patient-reported symptom monitoring may be considered for implementation as a part of high quality cancer care,” the researchers conclude.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.