Mrs. Jones is a 66-year-old postmenopausal woman who developed left breast pain and a palpable mass. A mammogram and ultrasound showed a 4.6 cm mass with an enlarged axillary node. A core biopsy revealed invasive ductal carcinoma that is estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive, and HER2 negative. Positron-emission tomography and computed tomography scans revealed metastatic disease.
Animal-facilitated therapy (AFT) programs have been shown to promote a healing environment and reduce certain psychological symptoms for patients with a variety of diagnoses, including cancer. Its use was even recommended by the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who wrote about the benefits of animals in patient care and recovery: “a pet is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.”
Misconceptions about radiation treatments, associated side effects, and impact on patient care still permeate medical oncology for patients and providers alike. As educators, patient advocates, and caregivers, radiation oncology nurses play a critical role in the successful treatment and support of patients with cancer.
Immunotherapy drugs fall into varying classes, each carrying its own mechanism of action and anticipated side effects. Although some side effects of immunotherapy may appear similar to those of chemotherapy (e.g., diarrhea, fatigue), they actually result from a totally different mechanism—meaning they require a different approach to management. Treating immunotherapy side effects as you would chemotherapy effects would likely result in patient harm.
Having an outlet to consider, discuss, and reflect on oncology ethical issues that affect our daily practice is important in caring for each other in our profession. On our solid tumor oncology unit, monthly nursing ethics lunch and learns allow our nurses the opportunity to identify and discuss their concerns with recent patient cases involving ethical issues. Our hospital’s ethics committee chair facilitates the hour-long discussions held on the unit, along with a senior oncology nurse with significant training and background in clinical ethics.
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