PURPOSE: We aimed to prospectively assess the incidence, severity and patients' perceptions of side-effects induced by radiotherapy and concomitant weekly cisplatin.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: This multinational survey included patients with a diagnosis of gynaecological or head and neck cancer scheduled to receive radiotherapy and concomitant weekly cisplatin. Patients completed a questionnaire prior to anti-cancer treatment and after 3weeks of treatment. Baseline frequency and severity of symptoms were compared to frequency and severity after 3weeks of treatment, and patients were asked to rank the five most severe symptoms experienced.
RESULTS: An increase in the severity as well as in the mean number of symptoms (18 compared to 24) was observed during treatment. Patients ranked 7 of the 10 most feared baseline symptoms as non-physical, whereas 8 of the 10 most feared symptoms after 3weeks of treatment were physical. Nausea was ranked as the 5th most severe symptom during treatment, despite 98% of patients receiving antiemetic prophylaxis.
CONCLUSION: Patients with head and neck cancer or gynaecological cancer suffer from a number of primarily non-physical symptoms before starting combined chemo-radiotherapy. After 3weeks of treatment patients score 8 of the 10 most feared symptoms as physical. Future trials focusing on the prevention of side-effects in patients receiving radiotherapy and concomitant chemotherapy are highly warranted.