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Study Accepted for Publication Examines Self-Monitoring for Rural Cancer Patients

A manuscript by Mary Anne Purtzer, Ph.D., RN, and Carol J. Hermansen-Kobulnicky, Ph.D., R.Ph., titled, "Being a Part of Treatment": The Meaning of Self-Monitoring for Rural Cancer Patients, has been accepted for publication and is currently "in press" in Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care.

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer entail managing vast amounts of information in order for patients to participate effectively in disease self-management. Information management includes patients’ responses to acquire, manage, and use external and internal information, such as through self-monitoring practices.

The objective of the study was to examine the meaning of self-monitoring practices within the context of rural patients' responses to internal and external information.

The researchers used an empirical phenomenological approach. Participants were adults 18 years or older, who were once diagnosed with cancer, who agreed to discuss health monitoring behavior in relation to their cancer experience, and who utilized services at a small, rural cancer center. Data were collected using semistructured interviews.

Findings revealed a self-directed pursuit of self-monitoring that was shaped by 4 factors, that is, cognitive, affective, interpersonal, and symptomatic. Quotations from participants illustrate these factors. "I’d ask the questions" represents the cognitive factor. "Are the horse stories about cancer treatments true?" represents the affective factor. The interpersonal factor is represented as "My nurse was there for me!" The symptomatic factor is represented as "Chemotherapy blocks out your memory." Informed by these factors, participants’ self-monitoring practices fostered participants’ sense of control and self-advocacy efforts.

The study concluded that nurses are in a strategic position to engage in supportive care practices through the facilitation of self-monitoring. The implications for practice are that assessment questions grounded in study findings are suggested for use by nurses to develop patient-centered education that facilitates self-monitoring practices.

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