Cancer Nursing Care Plans

Cancer is a general term used to describe a disturbance of cellular growth and refers to a group of diseases and not a single disease entity. Because cancer is a cellular disease, it can arise from any body tissue, with manifestations that result from failure to control the proliferation and maturation of cells.

There are more than 150 different types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. Symptoms vary depending on the type. Cancer treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery.

Nursing Care Plans

Nurses have a huge set of responsibilities for handling a patient with cancer. Nursing care involves assessment, support for therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), pain control, promoting nutrition, and emotional support.

Here are 13 cancer nursing care plans (NCP):

  1. Anticipatory Grieving
  2. Situational Low Self-Esteem
  3. Acute Pain
  4. Altered Nutrition: Less Than Body Requirements
  5. Risk for Fluid Volume Deficit
  6. Fatigue
  7. Risk for Infection
  8. Risk for Altered Oral Mucous Membranes
  9. Risk for Impaired Skin Integrity
  10. Risk for Constipation/Diarrhea
  11. Risk for Altered Sexuality Patterns
  12. Risk for Altered Family Process
  13. Fear/Anxiety
  14. Other Possible Nursing Care Plans
  15. See Also and Further Reading
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Anticipatory Grieving


May be related to

  • Anticipated loss of physiological well-being (e.g., loss of body part; change in body function); change in lifestyle
  • Perceived potential death of patient

Possibly evidenced by

  • Changes in eating habits, alterations in sleep patterns, activity levels, libido, and communication patterns
  • Denial of potential loss, choked feelings, anger

Desired Outcomes

  • Identify and express feelings appropriately.
  • Continue normal life activities, looking toward/planning for the future, one day at a time.
  • Verbalize understanding of the dying process and feelings of being supported in grief work.
Nursing Interventions Rationale
Expect initial shock and disbelief following diagnosis of cancer and traumatizing procedures (disfiguring surgery, colostomy, amputation). Few patients are fully prepared for the reality of the changes that can occur.
Assess patient and SO for stage of grief currently being experienced. Explain process as appropriate. Knowledge about the grieving process reinforces the normality of feelings and reactions being experienced and can help patient deal more effectively with them.
Provide open, nonjudgmental environment. Use therapeutic communication skills of Active-Listening, acknowledgment, and so on. Promotes and encourages realistic dialogue about feelings and concerns.
Encourage verbalization of thoughts or concerns and accept expressions of sadness, anger, rejection. Acknowledge normality of these feelings. Patient may feel supported in expression of feelings by the understanding that deep and often conflicting emotions are normal and experienced by others in this difficult situation.
Be aware of mood swings, hostility, and other acting-out behavior. Set limits on inappropriate behavior, redirect negative thinking. Indicators of ineffective coping and need for additional interventions. Preventing destructive actions enables patient to maintain control and sense of self-esteem.
Be aware of debilitating depression. Ask patient direct questions about state of mind. Studies show that many cancer patients are at high risk for suicide. They are especially vulnerable when recently diagnosed and discharged from hospital.
Visit frequently and provide physical contact as appropriate, or provide frequent phone support as appropriate for setting. Arrange for care provider and support person to stay with patient as needed. Helps reduce feelings of isolation and abandonment.
Reinforce teaching regarding disease process and treatments and provide information as appropriate about dying. Be honest; do not give false hope while providing emotional support. Patient and SO benefit from factual information. Individuals may ask direct questions about death, and honest answers promote trust and provide reassurance that correct information will be given.
Review past life experiences, role changes, and coping skills. Talk about things that interest the patient. Opportunity to identify skills that may help individuals cope with grief of current situation more effectively.
Note evidence of conflict; expressions of anger; and statements of despair, guilt, hopelessness, “nothing to live for.” Interpersonal conflicts or angry behavior may be patient’s way of expressing and dealing with feelings of despair or spiritual distress and could be indicative of suicidal ideation.
Determine way that patient and SO understand and respond to death such as cultural expectations, learned behaviors, experience with death (close family members, friends), beliefs about life after death, faith in Higher Power (God). These factors affect how each individual deals with the possibility of death and influences how they may respond and interact.
Identify positive aspects of the situation. Possibility of remission and slow progression of disease and new therapies can offer hope for the future.
Discuss ways patient and SO can plan together for the future. Encourage setting of realistic goals. Having a part in problem solving and planning can provide a sense of control over anticipated events.
Refer to visiting nurse, home health agency as needed, or hospice program, if appropriate. Provides support in meeting physical and emotional needs of patient and SO, and can supplement the care family and friends are able to give.
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