Why tracking symptoms matter and how to track them effectively
July 26, 2022
A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and once treatment begins patients can have a lot of worries on their minds. When they begin to experience symptoms because of their treatment the lines between what is considered normal and not normal can be very blurry. As are the lines between symptoms that can’t be avoided and ones that can. While some symptoms are harder to cope with than others, in more cases than not your doctor and care team can come up with a plan for you to cope with them better. They may not be able to completely eradicate some symptoms, but they may be able to help you find some relief.
That being said, the first step towards receiving the care you need starts with listening to your body. When it comes to any type of medical care, you need to act as your own medical advocate and to fight for what you need. One way to do this is to present your doctor with a detailed log and notes regarding any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Keep reading for insight into why tracking symptoms matter and how to do so effectively.
Why Tracking Symptoms Matter
While tracking your symptoms may appear like extra work at first glance, the payoff of doing so will make it worth your effort. Here’s a few reasons why tracking symptoms during cancer treatment matters so much.
Improved survival rates
To get the best treatment possible and to improve survival rates, it takes a village. You can contribute to your care team’s efforts by tracking symptoms. Five different studies found that patient-reported symptom surveillance led to significantly improved survival compared with usual care. Improved survival occurred mainly because tracking symptoms led to better symptom control allowing patients to receive the full course of their recommended treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and endocrine therapies.
Better Quality of Life
You can’t get what you don’t ask for and if your doctor doesn’t know what kind of symptoms you’re experiencing, they can’t work towards putting a plan in place to help you. Keeping track of your symptoms will make coming to your doctor to talk about them less intimidating. When you do get to meet with your doctor, you may have a lot of questions and concerns. It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. When you have a thorough log of all your symptoms, it is easier to communicate with them about how you’ve been feeling. For example, if you are experiencing extreme nausea and you take note that this symptom occurs a certain amount of days after each chemotherapy treatment, that’s very valuable information for your doctor to know and there are likely things they can do to reduce your discomfort.
Peace of mind
The last thing you need t is more stress during cancer treatment. By bringing any concerns you have about your symptoms to your doctor, you can get some much needed peace of mind regarding whether these symptoms are considered “normal” for your treatment plan and can get assistance treating them which can help put both your mind and body at ease.
Why Using a Tool to Track Is Essential
While some symptoms associated with cancer treatment are well known (such as nausea or fatigue), other symptoms are less common or less easily identifiable. Researchers often use patient-reported outcome (PRO) tools to capture retrospective data intended for clinicians to review, but that does little good to assist the patients currently experiencing those symptoms. This is where real-time tracking tools can be of great use as they can improve patient-doctor communication and can help improve the patient’s symptom management.
A study published in PubMed Central proved this and found that real-time symptom tracking tools can improve health outcomes for patients and can improve how they communicate with their doctors. This study followed 25 women with breast cancer providing ten women with a real-time symptom tracking tool while the others were instructed to record symptoms as they always had.. The findings? They found that the women without a tool reported symptoms in a fragmented and sporadic manner, while those with the symptom tracking were more consistent in their reporting.
Symptoms Worth Tracking
All symptoms you may be experiencing during your cancer treatment are worth tracking. Even symptoms as small as headaches are worth tracking. If every spring you get seasonal allergies that cause headaches, maybe you don’t need to write those headaches down. On the other hand if you suddenly start getting headaches regularly for the first time in your life, that is worth taking note of.
Not sure what symptoms you may be experiencing? Here are a few common symptoms associated with cancer treatment worth paying attention to.
- Symptoms associated with bone metastasis
- Symptoms associated with radiation
- Symptoms associated with lymphedema
How to Use the Outcomes4Me Symptoms Tracker
As that previously mentioned study noted, using a tool designed to track symptoms can make doing so more effective. Luckily, we have a free tool you can download right now that can help.
The Outcomes4Me symptom tracker makes it easy to keep track of when symptoms occur, to stay organized, and to have a thorough log of symptoms to share with your doctor.
With our mobile app symptom tracker, you can
- Add a photo and/or note to any symptom recorded
- Visualize symptoms on a graph to find trends in how the patient is feeling
- Export a report on all symptoms over the last few months and share it with a doctor
Download the Outcomes4Me app and symptom tracker to start staying on top of your health today!