PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To provide a definition, describe uses, and identify essential attributes of symptom management by emphasizing the philosophical base for the concept. DATA SOURCES: 51 references (i.e., books and articles) published from 1980-2003 and located through the Ovid database. DATA SYNTHESIS: Symptoms are subjective and personal phenomena, incorporating the dimensions of symptom occurrence, symptom distress, and symptom experience. Symptom management has been conceptualized and described as self-activity. Symptom status is the direct outcome of symptom management, with symptom distress, quality of life, and performance as major indicators. CONCLUSIONS: The essential attributes of symptom management in patients with cancer are subjectivity, experientiality, intentionality, multidimensionality, dynamic process, and positive and negative outcomes. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING: Findings can help oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals to better understand the process of managing a symptom and the influential factors that affect positive outcomes. The information from this analysis can be used to design educational and interventional programs for symptom management. Future research is needed to establish interventions that relieve and decrease the distress from or prevent the occurrence of symptoms.
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