Purpose/objectives: To test the efficacy of structured symptom assessment on level and rate of change in symptom distress over time.
Design: Prospective six-month randomized control trial.
Setting: Outpatient oncology offices and clinics in California.
Sample: 48 subjects newly diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, predominantly non-small cell. Most subjects received chemotherapy, 50% were women, and their average age was 62 years. 190 observations were analyzed.
Methods: Subjects were assigned randomly to structured assessment or usual care. Both groups completed the Symptom Distress Scale (SDS) monthly. After bivariate screening of potential predictors, a multivariate regression model for level and rate of change in SDS scores was created.
Main research variables: Symptom distress, functional status, and emotional distress.
Findings: Fatigue was the most common severely distressing symptom. In a multivariate model, chemotherapy and systematic assessment were associated with less symptom distress over time. Higher scores in depression and more functional limitations were related to higher levels of overall distress. Weight loss had a small impact.
Conclusions: Systematic use of structured symptom assessment forestalled increased symptom distress over time. Chemotherapy lessened symptom distress, but the impact diminished with time. Subjects with more depression and greater functional limitations had greater symptom distress.
Implications for nursing practice: During the course of advanced lung cancer, systematic ongoing nursing assessment of symptoms may be the first step in enhancing interventions to decrease distress. Patients at highest risk for symptom distress are those who experience emotional distress and functional limitations.