Integrative nonpharmacologic behavioral interventions for the management of cancer-related fatigue

Karen M Mustian, Gary R Morrow, Jennifer K Carroll, Colmar D Figueroa-Moseley, Pascal Jean-Pierre, Geoffrey C Williams
Oncologist 2007, 12: 52-67
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a debilitating, multi-faceted biopsychosocial symptom experienced by the majority of cancer survivors during and after treatment. CRF begins after diagnosis and frequently persists long after treatments end, even when the cancer is in remission. The etiological pathopsychophysiology underlying CRF is multifactorial and not well delineated. Mechanisms may include abnormal accumulation of muscle metabolites, dysregulation of the homeostatic status of cytokines, irregularities in neuromuscular function, abnormal gene expression, inadequate ATP synthesis, serotonin dysregulation, abnormal vagal afferent nerve activation, as well as an array of psychosocial mechanisms, including self-efficacy, causal attributions, expectancy, coping, and social support. An important first step in the management of CRF is the identification and treatment of associated comorbidities, such as anemia, hypothyroidism, pain, emotional distress, insomnia, malnutrition, and other comorbid conditions. However, even effective clinical management of these conditions will not necessarily alleviate CRF for a significant proportion of cancer survivors. For these individuals, intervention with additional therapeutic modalities may be required. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend that integrative nonpharmacologic behavioral interventions be implemented for the effective management of CRF. These types of interventions may include exercise, psychosocial support, stress management, energy conservation, nutritional therapy, sleep therapy, and restorative therapy. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the use of exercise and psychosocial interventions for the management of CRF. Research on these interventions has yielded positive outcomes in cancer survivors with different diagnoses undergoing a variety of cancer treatments. The data from trials investigating the efficacy of other types of integrative nonpharmacologic behavioral therapies for the management of CRF, though limited, are also encouraging. This article provides an overview of current research on the relative merits of integrative nonpharmacologic behavioral interventions for the effective clinical management of CRF and makes recommendations for future research. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.

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