Fatigue (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Overview
Fatigue has a negative impact on all areas of function, including mood, physical function, work performance, social interaction, family care, cognitive performance, school work, community activities, and sense of self.[15,16,17,18] The pattern of fatigue associated with cancer treatment varies according to type and schedule of treatment. For example, people treated with cyclic chemotherapy regimens generally exhibit peak fatigue in the days following treatment, then report lower levels of fatigue until the next treatment; however, those receiving external-beam radiation therapy report gradually increasing fatigue over the course of therapy of the largest treatment field. Few studies of people receiving cancer treatment have addressed the issue of fatigue as a result of the emotional distress associated with undergoing a diagnostic evaluation for cancer and the effects of medical and surgical procedures used for that evaluation and for initial treatment. Because most adults enter the cancer care system following at least one surgical procedure and because surgery and emotional distress are both associated with fatigue, it is likely that most people beginning nonsurgical treatment are experiencing fatigue at the beginning of treatment.[19,20]
Recommendations for fatigue management focus on identifying factors that may be contributing to fatigue. Because the only definitive causal mechanism demonstrated through research to date is chemotherapy-induced anemia, most clinical recommendations for managing fatigue caused by something other than chemotherapy-induced anemia rely on careful development of clinical hypotheses, as outlined in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines on fatigue. The only level 1 intervention for CRF at this time is exercise. (Refer to the Exercise section of this summary for more information.) Much more research is needed to better define fatigue and its trajectory, understand its physiology, and determine the best ways to prevent and treat it.
In this summary, unless otherwise stated, evidence and practice issues as they relate to adults are discussed. The evidence and application to practice related to children may differ significantly from information related to adults. When specific information about the care of children is available, it is summarized under its own heading.
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- National Comprehensive Cancer Network.: NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Cancer-Related Fatigue. Version 1.2013. Fort Washington, Pa: National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 2012. Available online. Last accessed January 23, 2013.