A new study finds that, breast cancer survivors reported more days of fatigue and more severe fatigue symptoms compared to healthy women. Women who received both chemotherapy and radiotherapy reported the most severe and prolonged fatigue according to the study, published in the October 15, 2007 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Fatigue is a common complaint in the general population and, anecdotally, common among cancer patients. Comparative fatigue studies between the two populations, however, have been marred by methodological shortcomings, such as poorly matched controls and patient populations. The studies do not consistently agree whether or not fatigue is a more common complaint among cancer patients compared to the general population.
Dr. Paul Jacobsen from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida and co-investigators followed 221 women with non-metastatic (early stage) breast cancer treated with either radiography (n=121) or a combination of chemotherapy and radiography (n=100) and 221 age- and geographically-matched healthy women (i.e., controls) at two, four, and six months after treatment.
These findings provide strong evidence that women with non-metastatic breast cancer treated with adjuvant chemotherapy are at significantly greater risk for severe fatigue.
The next step, explains Dr. Jacobsen, is to "explore whether interventions administered during or at the end of treatment are effective in preventing or limiting fatigue in the post-treatment period." They point in particular to the role of exercise, which has been shown to reduce fatigue in breast cancer survivors.