Oral Anti-Cancer Agent Medication Adherence

August 25th, 2015 in Hot Topics

by Sandra L. Spoelstra, Michigan State University College of Nursing, East Lansing, United States.

Patients with cancer miss as much as one third of the prescribed doses of oral anti-cancer agents required for treatment of their disease. Even more disconcerting is that within the next three years, 25% of cancer treatment will be delivered in pill form. This shift in the treatment paradigm will result in increased care in the home, placing greater responsibility on patients. Barriers to oral agent adherence for patients include no or limited coverage for the medication, complex dosing regimens, difficulty obtaining the prescription, running out of the prescription, forgetting to take the pills, skipping or stopping because they believed the medication was not working or because it created symptoms from side effects, and not seeking help from others. Often, the more adherent patients are to oral chemotherapy agents, the more likely they are to experience symptoms. Patients prescribed oral agents have indicated titrating doses as they were unable to tolerate symptoms occurring as a side effect of the cancer treatment. Thus, prompt and aggressive management of symptoms becomes vital to managing adherence at home. Furthermore, pharmacy literature suggests a narrow therapeutic index for cancer therapy, increasing the importance of oral agent adherence, as non-adherence may affect time to disease progression and mortality. The therapeutic outcome for patients taking oral agents depends heavily on the ability of patients to adhere to the prescribed regimen. Healthcare research has not conclusively identified effective interventions to promote medication adherence. Chemotherapy classes are a common part of care for patients receiving IV treatment. However, training for patients on oral agents is underdeveloped, and needs to include adherence, monitoring and reporting of symptoms from side effects and toxicities, coordination of changes in dosing if altered or stopped, and management of insurance coverage and drug delivery. Oncology nurses must take the lead in structuring care settings that promote patient behavior to attain optimal adherence. Oncology nurses can help patients and their families understand what they are responsible for in many ways. The number of cancer patients who receive oral agents in pill form is increasing, and oncology nurses can lead the way enabling patients to adhere to and complete their cancer treatment.


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Nursing and the impact of non-communicable diseases: Are you ready to make a difference?

May 26th, 2015 in Hot Topics

by Catherine Johnson, Calvary Mater Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.  ISNCC Finance and Audit Committee Member, ISNCC Corporate and Philanthropic Committee Member, ISNCC Knowledge Development and Dissemination Committee Member, ISNCC Communications Committee Member, ISNCC Member Development Committee Member.

Globally non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases make the largest contribution to mortality; approximately 60% (35 million) of all deaths and have the greatest impact in low and middle income countries (28 million deaths) (1).  Most of these deaths are from preventable causes: tobacco use, unhealthy diets, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. In 2010 the International Council of Nurses (ICN) identified that nurses are well positioned to lead NCD prevention, care and treatment. The ICN have developed a website (www.growyourwellness.com) that has a variety of tool and resources to help nurses lead wellness including prevention and health promotion tools, health assessments, policy and advocacy and also a section on nurses’ own health.

The International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) has strong leaders in the prevention and control of NCDs. Stella Bialous, current ISNCC president, with her colleague Linda Sarna have been advocates of tobacco cessation and the important role of nurses in helping smokers quit. They highlight tobacco cessation is incredibly important as it can lead to all four of the NCDs and have actively pursued capacity building of nurses in tobacco control. Of note, the ISNCC updated tobacco position statement was released in July 2014 and can be found at http://www.isncc.org/?page=Position_Statements. The ISNCC tobacco taskforce has been hosted in Eastern Europe (2012) and in China (2014) to increase nurses’ delivery of tobacco dependence treatment.

In 2014, at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, Sanchia Aranda, Past ISNCC president and current president of the Union for International Cancer Control, advocated for prevention strategies including higher tobacco taxes; implementation of prevention packages to improve diets and increase physical activity; development of effective workplace health promotion programs; and widespread vaccination programs, particularly in low-resource settings where routine screening and treatment services may not be available. Professor Aranda also spoke of the need for solutions that are accessible and affordable that deliver a return on investments for governments, particularly low and middle income countries where the burden of disease is greater and health services are not as well developed or resourced.

Nurses can play key roles in prevention and control of NCDs through key areas of policy, advocacy, research, education and clinical practice.

Do you feel prepared to contribute the prevention and control of NCDs?

Do you have the knowledge and skills to help patients, carers and their families modify their unhealthy behaviours to reduce their risk of developing one of the four key NCDs?

Will you be part of the solution?

  1. http://www.ncdalliance.org/globalepidemic