Review of symptom experiences in children and adolescents with cancer

Cancer Nurs. 2012 Mar-Apr;35(2):E31-49. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e3182207a2a.


Background: Inadequate symptom relief in children and adolescents with cancer leads to unnecessary suffering. This review assesses research on children and adolescents with cancer that had been published from 2002 to 2010.

Objectives: The review identifies the symptom experiences of children and adolescents undergoing treatment and describes the progress that has been made since Docherty's 2003 systematic review of nurse researcher published studies from 1990 to 2002, which identified gaps in research on the symptoms of pediatric oncology patients.

Method: A computerized search of medical and nursing literature produced 50 published studies and 2 dissertations that addressed the symptom experiences of children and adolescents receiving treatment for cancer.

Results: Pain from cancer-related procedures and fatigue were the most frequently identified symptoms, followed closely by nausea and vomiting. More preschool-aged subjects and nonwhite subjects need to be assessed, distinctions between age groups and gender should be explored, and instrumentation for the prereading group must be developed.

Conclusions: Research on symptoms experienced by children and adolescents has gained momentum within the last 10 years, and some of the gaps identified by Docherty have been addressed. Multicenter trials would increase sample sizes and decrease enrollment time.

Implications for practice: By synthesizing research completed from 2002 to 2010 on symptoms of children who had cancer, new ideas can be generated and shared with clinical nursing staff to improve patient care. Gaps to further direct research are also identified.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Nausea / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nursing Research / trends
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Vomiting / etiology*