The Next Research Generation: Managing Uncertainty, Improving the Quality of Life

By Teddi Fine

Nursing research has helped extend the lives of people diagnosed with cancer by promoting adoption of a team approach to care. Today’s young nurse researchers, such as Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing post-doctoral fellow Maya Shaha, PhD, RN, are going one step further, focusing on improving the quality of life and not just extending the life for cancer patients.

Following a cancer diagnosis, patient uncertainty, stress and anxiety often remain pervasive, affecting the quality of life for both patient and family. Little is known about factors that contribute to this uncertainty or how those factors can be managed. Shaha and colleagues conducted a literature review of over 40 articles that included the issue of uncertainty among breast, colon and prostate cancer patients.

The review yielded three sources of patient uncertainty: post-diagnosis information needs; decisions about treatment; and impact on home and family. The review also confirmed that patient uncertainty ebbs and flows with the course of the illness and treatment. Shaha posited that assessment and management of patient uncertainty should be a routine part of comprehensive cancer care.

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