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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Aug 6;95(15):1110-7.

National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement: Symptom Management in Cancer: Pain, Depression, and Fatigue, July 15-17, 2002.

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Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.



Despite advances in early detection and effective treatment, cancer remains one of the most feared diseases. Among the most common side effects of cancer and treatments for cancer are pain, depression, and fatigue. Although research is producing increasingly hopeful insights into the causes and cures for cancer, efforts to manage the side effects of the disease and its treatments have not kept pace. The challenge that faces us is how to increase awareness of the importance of recognizing and actively addressing cancer-related distress. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a State-of-the-Science Conference on Symptom Management in Cancer: Pain, Depression, and Fatigue to examine the current state of knowledge regarding the management of pain, depression, and fatigue in individuals with cancer and to identify directions for future research. Specifically, the conference examined how to identify individuals who are at risk for cancer-related pain, depression, and/or fatigue; what treatments work best to address these symptoms when they occur; and what is the best way to deliver interventions across the continuum of care. State-of-the-Science Process: A non-advocate, non-Federal, 14-member panel of experts representing the fields of oncology, radiology, psychology, nursing, public health, social work, and epidemiology prepared the statement. In addition, 24 experts in medical oncology, geriatrics, pharmacology, psychology, and neurology presented data to the panel and to the conference audience during the first 1.5 days of the conference. The panel then prepared its statement, addressing the five predetermined questions and drawing on submitted literature, the speakers' presentations, and discussions held at the conference. The statement was presented to the conference audience, followed by a press conference to allow the panel to respond to questions from the media. After its release at the conference, the draft statement was made available on the Internet. The panel's final statement is available at


The panel concluded that the available evidence supports a variety of interventions for treating cancer patients' pain, depression, and fatigue. Clinicians should routinely use brief assessment tools to ask patients about pain, depression, and fatigue and to initiate evidence-based treatments. Assessment should include discussion about common symptoms experienced by cancer patients, and these discussions should continue over the duration of the illness. Impediments to effective symptom management in cancer patients can arise from different sources and interactions among providers, patients and their families, and the health care system. Numerous factors could interfere with adequate symptom management. Among these factors are incomplete effectiveness of some treatments, a lack of sufficient knowledge regarding effective treatment strategies, patient reluctance to report symptoms to caregivers, a belief that such symptoms are simply a part of the cancer experience that must be tolerated, and inadequate coverage and reimbursement for some treatments. Additional research is needed on the definition, occurrence, the treatment of pain, depression, and fatigue, alone and in combination, in adequately funded prospective studies. The panel also concluded that the state of the science in cancer symptom management should be reassessed periodically.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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