Symptom Burden: A Concept Analysis and Implications for Oncology Nurses

Roxanna Gapstur

symptom burden, symptom management
ONF 2007, 34(3), 673-680. DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.673-680

Purpose/Objectives: To analyze the concept of symptom burden and discuss implications for symptom research and symptom management.

Data Sources: MEDLINE®, CINAHL®, PsycINFO, Cochrane Reviews, and published literature.

Data Synthesis: Through Rodgers's evolutionary method of concept analysis, attributes of symptom burden were identified as dynamic, multidimensional, quantifiable, subjective, and physiologic. The major antecedent was multiple symptoms related to worsening disease status. Consequences of symptom burden included decreased survival, poor prognosis, delay or termination of treatment, increased hospitalizations and medical costs, decreased functional status, and lowered self-reported quality of life. Symptom burden is defined as the subjective, quantifiable prevalence, frequency, and severity of symptoms placing a physiologic burden on patients and producing multiple negative, physical, and emotional patient responses.

Conclusions: Symptom burden is an important concept in the symptoms experience, separate from symptom distress and other related terms. The continued differentiation of symptom concepts is important for sound methodologic research and meaningful interventions that affect and improve patient experiences.

Implications for Nursing: Clarifying multiple symptom concepts in the symptoms experience, determining appropriate measurement methodologies for the concepts, and identifying appropriate strategies will lessen the burden of symptoms and contribute to improved quality of life and better patient outcomes.

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