The following article features coverage from the 2017 Oncology Nursing Society’s Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.            

Denver, CO — When nurses educate patients about treatment-related side effects for virally associated oropharyngeal cancers after chemoradiotherapy, it can improve their overall quality of life and foster active participation in their survivorship according to research presented at the 2017 Oncology Nursing Society Annual Congress.

Researchers led by Jennifer Cerar, RN, CRRN, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, created an algorithm to guide the management and follow up regarding long-term side effects for patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal cancers after chemoradiotherapy. Patients were educated about side effects and coached in regards to lifestyle management throughout their treatment course, including detailed handouts in their discharge instructions.

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The researchers also developed an educational tool that patients could access via their electronic health records to assist in their overall understanding of their disease and the management of related side effects. 

The researchers conducted a literature review that supported the benefits of coaching and education as it relates to improvements in quality of life for patients receiving cancer treatment.

Based on that literature review, the researchers claim that the tools and educational interventions that they developed will improve quality of life for HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers after chemoradiotherapy. 

At this time, patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are living longer than ever before; with double the overall survival rate compared to previous assessments (54.6% vs 27.6% at 2 years: P <.001). Due to the fact that the population of patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers is growing, these improvements to education are necessary.

“Oncology nurses must thoroughly assess for potential acute and long term effects in this patient population. A good understanding of the treatment effects impacting a patient’s QOL is essential for nurses to effectively manage and support these patients,” the researchers concluded.

Read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s coverage of the 2017 Oncology Nursing Society’s Annual Conference by visiting the conference page.


1. Cerar J, Battiato L, Bryant K, Wood G. The critical roles of nursing education and coaching of patients with virally associated oropharyngeal cancer to enhance quality of life after chemoradiotherapy. Oral presentation at: Oncology Nursing Society 42nd Annual Congress; May 4-7, 2017; Denver, CO.