The Difficulty of Reporting Minor Symptoms

After someone has been through cancer treatment and recovery, a new mild symptom is no big deal, right?  Well, maybe. In the next few posts, we'll explore the difficulty of reporting minor symptoms in long-term survivors (LTS) who want to be Healthy Survivors.

There are two reasons to report a minor symptom:

  • It can impair your quality of life, especially if persistent.
  • It may be due to the early stage of serious disease. 

Unlike with a severe symptom (e.g., the pain of a kidney stone), patients with a minor symptom don't need immediate relief. They can go about their day despite a mild ache or mild nausea. In addition, patients can hide or ignore a minor symptom. Consequently, LTS control if and when they talk to anyone about it. That's nice. The down side is that many LTS experience decisional distress.

You might wonder why. Theoretically, their job is simple: report the symptom and leave the burden of responsibility to their physicians to decide about evaluating it.

In reality, LTS know that reporting a new symptom is likely to trigger an evaluation, as well it should, given the risk of recurrence and late effects (i.e., problems that first appear months/years after completion of treatment). Not surprisingly then, many patients feel the onus on them to decide if their symptom is significant enough to report to their doctors, a burden that can lead to decisional distress.

Next: Decisional distress. 

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