A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief, behaviorally oriented intervention for cancer-related fatigue

Jo Armes, Trudie Chalder, Julia Addington-Hall, Alison Richardson, Matthew Hotopf
Cancer 2007 September 15, 110 (6): 1385-95

BACKGROUND: It has been shown that nonpharmacologic interventions are effective management techniques for cancer-related fatigue (CRF) in cancer survivors. However, few studies have investigated their effectiveness in patients who are receiving chemotherapy. In this study, the authors tested the effectiveness of a brief behaviorally oriented intervention in reducing CRF and improving physical function and associated distress in individuals who were receiving chemotherapy.

METHODS: For this randomized controlled trial, 60 patients with cancer were recruited and received either usual care or the intervention. The intervention was delivered on an individual basis on 3 occasions over a period from 9 weeks to 12 weeks, and the objective of the intervention was to alter fatigue-related thoughts and behavior. Primary outcomes were assessed as follows: CRF using the Visual Analogue Scale-Global Fatigue; physical functioning using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Core 30 Questionnaire, and CRF-associated distress using the Fatigue Outcome Measure. Assessments were made on 4 occasions: at baseline (T0), at the end of chemotherapy (T1), 1 month after chemotherapy (T2), and 9 months after recruitment (T3). Normally distributed data were analyzed using t tests and random-slope/random-intercept mixed models.

RESULTS: The intervention demonstrated a trend toward improved CRF, although this effect was reduced once confounders had been controlled statistically. There was a significant improvement in physical functioning (coefficient, 10.0; 95% confidence interval, 2.5-17.5; P = .009), and this effect remained once the confounding effects of mood disturbance and comorbid disorders were controlled statistically. No decrease in fatigue-related distress was detected.

CONCLUSIONS: The behaviorally oriented intervention brought about significant improvements in physical functioning, indicated a trend toward improved CRF, but detected no effect for fatigue-related distress.

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