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Research Highlights

Cancer-Related Fatigue and Supportive Care

Cancer-related fatigue is a common symptom that significantly affects quality of life and is one with physical, emotional, and cognitive components. Fatigue can be a direct effect of cancer itself or of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, following which it is often a long-term problem. Many patients are not prepared for the degree of fatigue they might experience after treatment and/or not educated in management strategies to cope with it, even though a number of interventions have been found helpful. These include exercise, diet, adequate sleep, education, information, counseling, and complementary therapies.

Recently, Teresa Young and colleagues at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood, Middlesex, UK, reported the results of patient experience surveys on cancer-related fatigue. The survey was undertaken to determine the incidence, severity, and impact of fatigue symptoms among cancer patients. It also was used to determine whether patients were asked about fatigue by their healthcare teams, whether patients with fatigue were offered education, support, or interventions to manage fatigue as well as the effectiveness of any support or interventions offered. Survey 1 was a retrospective analysis of clinical notes for 68 outpatients; survey 2 was a prospective survey of 146 outpatients. In both samples, a majority of patients had either breast or prostate cancer.  

The study found that many patients were not being given advice to manage their cancer-related fatigue — partly due to a lack of healthcare providers’ awareness of  its occurrence and extent and of their failure to provide patients with management advice. The research team stressed the continued need to improve education of medical staff about the extent of fatigue both during and after treatment and the need to provide patients with information about management strategies to reduce fatigue and improve quality of life. For more information, see James S, Wright P, Scarlett C, Young T, et al. Cancer-related fatigue: Results from patient experience surveys undertaken in a UK regional cancer centre. Support Care Cancer. 2014 Dec 23 [Epub ahead of print].

Supportive Care Makes Excellent Cancer Care Possible