Survivors who report fatigue should be carefully screened for depression, write the researchers. They included Julienne Bower, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Tired or Not?
Breast cancer is women's most common cancer, except for nonmelanoma skin cancer. Breast cancer survival is improving, so the researchers tracked a group of patients for more than a decade after diagnosis.
The women completed surveys within five years of breast cancer diagnosis and again within a decade after diagnosis.
The women rated how often they felt "full of pep," "had a lot of energy," "felt worn out," or "felt tired" during the past four weeks. The surveys also covered depression, health problems, and type of cancer treatment.
Tired After Cancer
Fatigue was also more commonly noted by women who had gotten radiation and chemotherapy, compared with those who had only had radiation therapy. Radiation and chemotherapy are often used after breast cancer surgery to kill any lingering cancer cells.
Tamoxifen, a drug often taken to prevent the return of hormone-sensitive breast cancer, wasn't linked to fatigue.
Why were the women tired? The study doesn't show that. Many physical and emotional factors affect fatigue, the researchers note. It's normal for people to feel tired during cancer treatment, they add.
Overall, the women were "resilient," write Bower and colleagues.
The study "suggests that persistent fatigue is experienced by a minority of women in the aftermath of cancer diagnosis and treatment," the researchers write.
No one knows which, if any, participants were suffering from fatigue before breast cancer diagnosis. Only 61% of women approached for this study took part. Women who declined to participate may have been the most fatigued of all, the researchers write.