Clinical Advances in HPV-Positive Head and Neck Cancer - Episode 6

Oncology Nurse's Role in Side Effect Management for HNC

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The oncology nurse is critical in the treatment of patients receiving cetuximab therapy, says Ezra Cohen, MD. Oncology nurses are integral in the management of toxicities, which impact medication adherence. Toxicities are common, and nurses are the initial service patients reach out to for assistance. If new supportive care treatment should be introduced, it can be implemented right away through the aid of nurses. If preventative measures, such as minimizing sun exposure or initiating topical therapies, can be implemented, the oncology nurse can readily manage toxicities without reducing the dose or interrupting therapy.

Barbara Murphy, MD, adds that nurses have a substantial impact on a patient’s comfort level with their therapy and can help them learn how to respond to and cope with side effects. In Murphy’s clinic, nurses conduct educational sessions with their patients, informing them of what toxicities to expect, how to cope with adverse events, and when to call their healthcare team with a problem. Without nurses facilitating management, patients are often under-informed and do not have a sense of who they should contact with problems, says Murphy, leaving patients ultimately less confident in dealing with the toxicities of their treatment.