Background: This study was undertaken as part of a feasibility study of the use of a symptom checklist and self-care assessment of veterans receiving oncology outpatient treatment within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs system.
Objectives: The study aimed to examine (a) symptom occurrence and severity as self-reported on the Therapy-Related Symptom Checklist (TRSC) by veterans at a cancer clinic, (b) symptom alleviation strategies and use of self-care, and (c) the relationship between symptom occurrence and severity and functional status and quality of life.
Methods: Veterans (N = 100) undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy participated in a cross-sectional study. Tools used, including TRSC, Symptom Alleviation: Self-Care Methods tool, Karnofsky Performance Status scale, and a quality-of-life measure, had good psychometric properties.
Findings: Thirteen symptoms were reported by more than 35% of patients. Top-ranked symptoms by percentage occurrence and severity were feeling sluggish, taste changes, nausea, pain, constipation, loss of appetite, numbness of fingers and toes, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, hair loss, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, and decreased interest in sexual activity. Occurrence and severity of symptoms had significant negative correlations with functional status and with overall quality of life. Self-care (symptom alleviation) strategies that helped were medicines, diet and nutrition, and lifestyle change. Checklist use (TRSC) facilitated patient-report of symptoms during cancer treatments; self-care strategies helped relieve symptoms.