Symptom control in advanced cancer: important drugs and routes of administration

Semin Oncol. 2000 Feb;27(1):69-83.


Aggressive symptom control is a vital component of palliative medicine. Frequently both physicians and patients focus on pain control, forgetting the broader issues of symptom control. Pain and other symptoms are inextricably linked. Common symptoms include constipation, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, anorexia, weight loss, and cough. All oncologists should be familiar with the indications, doses, and unwanted effects of drugs commonly indicated for symptom control. This article will discuss some drugs presently available to achieve good symptom control. At the correct dose and dosing schedule, these agents can have a significant impact on quality of life. As in all areas of medicine, it is best to know the benefits and unwanted effects of a few drugs, rather than randomly prescribing different agents for similar clinical situations. This is rational prescribing. While the list presented here is not exhaustive, it does reflect core drugs currently available in the United States.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Palliative Care*