Health Journal: To manage symptoms, cancer patients get 24/7 ...
Bette Ghidotti had hoped to spend some time on the beach while at her Sarasota, Fla., vacation home, but fatigue from her cancer treatment was keeping her indoors. Though she could have brought up her symptoms with her doctor, her semimonthly appointments are focused on chemotherapy and prescriptions, she says, leaving little time for discussing anything else.
"My doctor, once in a while, will say it's depression, but I don't really feel depressed," says the 73-year-old retired nurse. And support groups, where others find information and solace, are of little interest to her.
But Ms. Ghidotti, who lives most of the year in Columbus, Ohio, has found help from a Houston nurse practitioner who recommended a mouthwash for her mouth soreness -- a common side effect of chemotherapy drugs -- and prompts her to discuss some of the gastrointestinal problems she wouldn't bother her busy oncologist with. She has never met the nurse, but reads and often responds to her message-board entries every day around 6:30 p.m.
Prior to this, her use of the Internet was mostly limited to email. "I've never done anything like this before," she says, but the nurse "gives me a lot of different things to be thinking about, and moral support, too." What's more, she reports, her mouth pain is gone.
Ms. Ghidotti is part of a clinical study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that aims to see whether ovarian-cancer patients benefit from private message boards where they can discuss symptoms and side effects with doctors and nurses.
Ovarian cancer is the eighth-most-common cancer among women. While it is less prevalent than breast or cervical cancer, it is more difficult to detect and therefore tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, when the odds for survival are lower. It is also characterized by a high level of recurrence and multiple symptoms, which makes the disease well-suited to a study that focuses on symptom and pain management.
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