The effectiveness of nurse-led interventions for cancer symptom management 2000-2018: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Daniel Kelly*, Pauline Campbell, Claire Torrens, Andreas Charalambous, Ulrika Ostlund, Manuela Eicher, Maria Larsson, Iveta Nohavova, Cecilia Olsson, Mhairi Simpson, Elisabeth Patiraki, Lena Sharp, Theresa Wiseman, Wendy Oldenmenger, Mary Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

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Evidence for effectiveness of nurse-led interventions for cancer-related symptoms is of variable quality. This study aimed to identify, appraise and evaluate the nature and effectiveness of nurse-led interventions on symptoms for people with cancer.

A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ten major databases were searched (2000 to 2018, no language restrictions). Two reviewers applied a priori selection criteria; data extraction included design, population, cancer type, and cancer-related symptoms. Interventions and providers were profiled using TIDieR reporting guidelines, and content analysis of components. Methodological quality was assessed using Cochrane risk of bias. A meta-analysis was performed using mean and standardised mean differences with 95% confidence intervals. Overall certainty was assessed using GRADE.

From 29193 records, 149 studies (n = 107286 participants) from 22 countries were eligible. Interventions included multiple components; education and psychological approaches dominated. Pooled meta-analyses found evidence of benefit for nurse-led interventions on measures of constipation (MD −4.54, 95% CI −8.08 to −0.99; 645 participants; 6 trials; I2 = 0%; P = 0.01); nausea and vomiting (MD −1.97, 95% CI −3.61 to −0.33; 957 participants; 8 trials; I 2 = 12%; P = 0.02) and fatigue (MD −4.63, 95% CI −7.97 to −1.30; 1208 participants; 11 trials; I2 = 34%; P = 0.007). Psychological morbidity (anxiety, depression, mood) also improved. However, few trials used consistent outcome measures, interventions were poorly defined, and certainty of evidence was low or very low.

Nurse-led interventions improve specific cancer-related symptoms, including psychological morbidity. Enhanced reporting and collaboration to develop a minimum core dataset would strengthen the quality of evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100052
JournalHealth Sciences Review
Early online date2 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Sep 2022


  • nurse-led interventions, systematic review, meta-analysis, quality of life, cancer


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