Using a Heuristic App to Improve Symptom Self-Management in Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer

J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2019 Apr;8(2):131-141. doi: 10.1089/jayao.2018.0103. Epub 2018 Oct 24.


Purpose: Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer need self-management strategies to cope with multiple symptoms. Self-efficacy, self-regulation, and negotiated collaboration are key theoretical components of the self-management process and have not been fully explored with AYAs with cancer. This study examined the effects of a heuristic symptom assessment tool on AYAs' self-efficacy for symptom management, AYAs' self-regulation abilities related to their symptoms, and communication with their providers about symptoms.

Methods: AYAs (15-29 years of age) receiving chemotherapy used the Computerized Symptom Capture Assessment Tool (C-SCAT) to illustrate their symptom experience and discuss their symptoms with providers during two clinic visits. Participants completed the PROMIS Self-efficacy for Managing Symptoms Scale, a measure of satisfaction with provider communication, and a short interview about self-regulation and communication behaviors at baseline and after each provider visit.

Results: Eighty-five AYAs who used the C-SCAT showed improved self-efficacy for managing symptoms. Qualitative data suggest that the C-SCAT was useful for enhancing a number of AYAs' self-regulation abilities related to symptom management, such as awareness and recall of symptoms, how symptoms were related, and how they planned to talk about their symptoms to providers. AYAs reported C-SCAT facilitated communication with providers about symptoms and symptom management because it was a visual prompt showing priority and related symptoms.

Conclusions: Because AYAs continue to experience multiple distressing symptoms, symptom self-management remains an important area for practice and research. Use of heuristic tools, such as the C-SCAT, may help AYAs more effectively self-manage their symptoms for better health outcomes.

Keywords: communication; self-efficacy; self-management; self-regulation; symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Computers, Handheld / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Heuristics*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Palliative Care
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prognosis
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Self-Management / psychology
  • Self-Management / statistics & numerical data*
  • Symptom Assessment / instrumentation*
  • Young Adult