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There is a limited number of literature reviews of the symptom experience and self-management of head and neck cancer (HNC) patients who have undergone radiation therapy, in the period before, during, and after treatment. Moreover, a qualitative approach exploring these specific experiences and their management will benefit both health care providers and researchers to understand the factual experience. Knowledge of this kind is needed to help eliminate distress from treatment-related symptom toxicities and to develop novel and adequate interventions to support these patients’ needs. A literature search was carried out in April 2017 using Cochrane, CINAHL, Ovid, Pubmed, PsycINFO, and ScienceDirect databases to review the literature on HNC patients, symptom experience and management during radiation or concurrent chemoradiotherapy. Symptoms experienced by HNC patients mainly relate to eating difficulties and uncertainty from the moment of being diagnosed with cancer until treatment completion. Symptom management is focused on self-management for out-patients by providing guidance, and disease education is delivered by knowledgeable healthcare providers with good interpersonal skills. Communication strategies with tailored information also provide vital data found in this synthesis. Early assessment and intervention with patients, and an effective family involvement, is important to facilitate access to quality oncology services. This is vital in helping overcome the uniquely complex treatment-related symptoms and to help patients and families to cope with the difficult time of getting through the treatment trajectory.
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