Update on interventions focused on symptom clusters: What has been tried and what have we learned?

Ann M. Berger, Sriram Yennu, Million Rita Million

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose of review Although clinicians and researchers acknowledge symptom clusters, the focus has been on relieving a single symptom. This review summarizes the recent literature on interventions that focus on relief of symptom clusters in patients with cancer. Recent findings Twelve intervention studies meeting inclusion criteria were published in 2011-2012. The timeframe was expanded to 2009-2012 and 24 studies met the criteria: 18 in early stage and 6 in advanced-stage cancer patients. Several cognitive behavioral therapy, complementary therapy, and exercise interventions demonstrated positive outcomes in relieving a variety of symptom clusters in several cancer types. Most psychoeducational interventions using traditional formats or those combined with automated clinician alerts demonstrated effectiveness in reducing a variety of clusters. Clusters that included fatigue and anxiety or depression were reduced by exercise in early stage patients and by methylphenidate in advanced-stage patients. Current NIH R01 funded studies verified the trends in the types of interventions being tested. Summary Few interventions have been tested and found to be effective in relieving the specific symptom clusters in early and advanced-stage cancer patients. Future research needs to expand our understanding of the mechanisms that initiate co-occurring symptoms. Mechanism-targeted interventions need to be identified and tested in homogeneous samples with specific symptom clusters. Interventions need to be replicated before guidelines can be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Cancer
  • Intervention
  • Palliative care
  • Symptom cluster

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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