Skip navigation

Cancer-related fatigue

 

Clinical bottom line

Cancer-related fatigue is common.


Reference

GA Curt et al. Impact of cancer-related fatuigue on the lives of patients: new findings from the fatigue coalition. The Oncologist 2000 5: 353-360.

Study

This was a survey conducted in the United Sates from a panel of 575,000 household which had indicated that they would be willing to be contacted for research purposes. A random selection of 6,000 households identified as having one member with cancer was contacted by telephone. Only individuals with cancer, and who had undergone chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy were eligible to participate.

Results

The number of individuals filling a questionnaire was 379. The side effects during and after chemotherapy that affected them most are shown in Table 1. Fatigue was felt for at least a few days each month by 76% during their most recent chemotherapy, compared with 54% experiencing nausea, and about 20% reporting depression or pain. Older patients experienced more fatigue, and women experienced more daily fatuigue than men,

Table 1: Side effects affecting persons with cancer most during and after chemotherapy

Side effect

During chemotherapy (%)

After chemotherapy (%)

Nausea

34

13

Fatigue

18

25

Hair loss

11

6

Diarrhoea/constipation

2

Weight change

2

Hot flushes/menopause

2

Most of the 301 patients experiencing fatuigue (59%) were actively working at the time of their cancer diagnosis. For most nothing was recommended to reduce fatiugue, with rest or relaxation being most often recommended, followed by diet, vitamins exercise and prescription drugs less commonly.

Comment

Patients surveys like this may not be fine tools of research, but they can certainly point out important realities for patients that otherwise we can miss. This one says that fatigue is a big problem, and that it needs attention.