The increasing national and international attention to October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings to mind the tremendous progress made by the women’s rights movement over the last few decades. Just as important for us to highlight this month are the great strides in the breadth and depth of oncology nursing practice that have occurred over this same period of time.
In this issue of ONCOLOGY Nurse Edition, I’m impressed with the broad range of topics covered in the articles, each highlighting the tremendous scope of responsibility and expertise of the oncology nurse. The cover feature, by Barton Bobb and Patrick Coyne, focuses on the assessment and management of breakthrough pain as an important aspect of pain management; this specific type of pain requires careful identification and presents complex challenges for all of us caring for individuals in pain. Another article, by Lori Smith, describes sexual functioning difficulties experienced by the gynecologic cancer survivor. Importantly, this piece demonstrates that not only are we concerned about this important quality of life issue, but we also are able to intervene and minimize long-term problems for these women. The review article, by Franklin and colleagues, highlighting rehabilitation needs of the cancer survivor, speaks to the current concept that maximizing life after cancer is an ongoing goal. We are no longer limited by the notion that once treatment of the disease is completed, our work is over. In some ways, when treatment ends our work has just begun.
Central to holistic nursing care is the utilization of integrative therapies, and to round out the picture of the comprehensive nature of our practice, the Integrative Oncology department in this month’s issue focuses on a discussion of mindfulness meditation by Susan Bauer-Wu. This type of mental training is a valuable resource for our patients, and it is increasingly important that we have accurate information about it and about similar interventions and the evidence for their use.
Taken together, the variety of topics in just this one issue speaks to the comprehensive nature of oncology nursing practice. Although we all expect that we will treat the patient as a whole person in each nursing encounter, we should not forget how far we have come in developing an evidence base and holding a respected position within the oncology care team. Nevertheless, we have still much to do as the healthcare system changes. We must continue to challenge ourselves as professionals and as individuals, pushing the limits of our knowledge and responsibilities even further, and broadening our current practice horizons far into the future.