Symptom Experiences and Coping Strategies among Multiethnic Solid Tumor Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy in Malaysia


Background: This study was performed to assess patient symptoms prevalence, frequency and severity, as wellas distress and coping strategies used, and to identify the relationships between coping strategies and psychologicaland physical symptoms distress and demographic data of cancer patients. This cross-sectional descriptive studyinvolved a total of 268 cancer patients with various types of cancer and chemotherapy identified in the oncologyunit of an urban tertiary hospital. Materials and
Methods: Data were collected using questionnaires (demographicquestionnaire, Medical characteristics, Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS) and Brief COPE scalesand analyzed for demographic, and disease-related variable effects on symptom prevalence, severity, distressand coping strategies.
Results: Symptom prevalence was relatively high and ranged from 14.9% for swellingof arms and legs to 88.1% for lack of energy. This latter was the highest rated symptom in the study. The levelof distress was found to be low in three domains. Problem-focused coping strategies were found to be morecommonly employed compared to emotion-focused strategies, demonstrating significant associations with sex, agegroup, educational levels and race. However, there was a positive correlation between emotion-focused strategiesand physical and psychological distress, indicating that patients would choose emotion-focused strategies whensymptom distress increased.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that high symptom prevalence ratesand coping strategies used render an improvement in current nursing management. Therefore development ofsymptoms management groups, encouraging the use of self-care diaries and enhancing the quality of psychooncologyservices provided are to be recommended.