Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Cancer-Related Fatigue Linked To Depression

Impaired Physical Function Also Linked to Fatigue After Cancer Treatment

WebMD Health News

July 19, 2004 -- Depression and poor physical function, rather than treatment side effects, may be to blame for the fatigue some people feel after cancer treatment, according to a new study.

Researchers say fatigue is the most common and distressing problem facing cancer survivors after treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, or immune therapy. For many cancer patients, the feelings of persistent tiredness can be severe and drastically limit their daily activities.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) describes cancer-related fatigue as an unusual, persistent, and subjective sense of tiredness related to cancer or cancer treatment that interferes with usual functions.

Previous studies have suggested that impaired immune systems or anemia (low levels of the red blood cells that carry oxygen) were associated with cancer-related fatigue. But in this study, researchers found these factors were unrelated to fatigue among a group of people treated for leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related cancers.

The findings appear in the July issue of the Annals of Oncology.

Cancer Fatigue Not Linked to Other Conditions

Researchers studied 71 people who were in remission from their blood-related cancers and had ended treatment at least three months before the study began.

The participants answered questionnaires about their mental status, health, and activities, and underwent physical and medical examinations.

Researchers found people who were depressed and had impaired physical function were much more likely to suffer from cancer-related fatigue. But there was no correlation between fatigue and other conditions, such as thyroid, liver, and kidney function, anemia, and immune system function, that might also lead to fatigue.

For example, those who had high scores on measures of fatigue had an average depression score that was 10 times higher than that of those who had low fatigue scores. Those who were very fatigued also had average physical performance scores that were five times lower than those reported by non-fatigued cancer patients.

Researchers say the relationship between reduced physical function and depression and their role in cancer-related fatigue merits further study.

"Impaired physical performance and depression seem to be critical components in cancer-related fatigue although we have not yet clarified the association between the two factors," says researcher Fernando Dimeo of the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, in a news release.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas