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Acute oncology is an area of cancer care that deals with oncological emergencies. These can occur either because of the cancer itself or from its treatments (Watson et al. ). It has been shown that early diagnosis and treatment in any acute deterioration are necessary to prevent major morbidity or mortality.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death across most of the Western world (McCurdy and Shanholtz ). People with cancer may present at some point in their cancer journey with a cancer‐related emergency; this may even be their initial presentation. They may also present via many routes, not just through the accident and emergency department (A&E) (DH , National Cancer Intelligence Network , Putt and Jones ). The literature now suggests that slightly less than 50% of cancer patients will die from their cancer, accentuating the need for optimal symptom management and recognition of any acute deterioration that may be reversible (Hjermstad et al. ).
Inpatient care accounts for 50% of all cancer expenditure, and inpatient cancer care accounts for 12% of all acute inpatient bed stays (National Audit Office ). Emergency admissions for cancer rose by 30% from 1997 to 2007 (Mort et al. ). It is estimated that an average hospital will have five cancer patients admitted to A&E every day (Mort et al. , National Chemotherapy Advisory Group [NCAG] ). Acute oncology cancer nursing is about recognizing these patients and their symptoms and instituting appropriate care and management in conjunction with the whole team. Aggressive management may be appropriate even in advanced disease if the toxicity is reversible. However these decisions should be made on an individual basis and as far as possible with information regarding the patient's treatment plan, prognosis and wishes.