Self-efficacy in symptom management for adolescents and young adults with cancer: a systematic review

Clifton P. Thornton*, Mengchi Li, Chao Hsing Yeh, Kathy Ruble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) have more frequent and intense adverse effects from cancer therapy than other age groups. Self-efficacy, the ability for persons to maintain health-related behavior change, may assist with symptom management but the role it plays in AYAs with cancer has not been thoroughly investigated. This review explores the role that self-efficacy has in symptom management for AYAs with cancer and provides guidance for clinicians to utilize self-efficacy as a means to reduce side effects of therapy. Methods: A systematic review of peer-reviewed literature was conducted to identify works discussing self-efficacy and symptom management for AYAs with cancer. Five databases were searched with key terms and articles that discussed relationships between self-efficacy and cancer therapy symptoms were retained for analysis. Findings: Twelve manuscripts representing 1180 individuals age 12 to 43 years were identified. Self-efficacy was found to be related to (1) health management behaviors, (2) psychosocial health, (3) sexual and reproductive health, and (4) physical symptoms. Self-efficacy had direct correlations with physical activity, nutritional intake, symptom regulation, mental health, sexual health, and fertility preservation. The included studies did not find significant relationships with medication adherence or pain management. Discussion: Self-efficacy is an attribute that impacts behavior change, health maintenance, and overall wellness and can be changed over time and through interventions to improve symptoms of cancer therapy. Self-efficacy should be evaluated as a construct in relevant studies aimed at improving side effects of cancer therapy to better understand outcomes from interventions. Symptoms, toxicities, and adverse effects of cancer therapy may be improved by increasing self-efficacy of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2851-2862
Number of pages12
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - 06 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature.


  • Adolescent
  • Cancer
  • Self-efficacy
  • Symptom
  • Young adult


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