Fatigue and quality of life in women treated for various types of gynaecological cancers: a cross-sectional study

Ragnhild Johanne Tveit Sekse, Karl Ove Hufthammer, Margrethe Elin Vika
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2015, 24 (3-4): 546-55

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To examine the prevalence of cancer-related fatigue in women treated for various types of gynaecological cancers and, for these cancers, to assess fatigue in relation to distress, health-related quality of life, demography and treatment characteristics.

BACKGROUND: Advances in treatment of cancer have improved the likelihood of survival. Consequently, there are a growing number of patients who become survivors after cancer and who face side effects even years after treatment. One of the most frequently reported side effects across all types and stages of the disease is cancer-related fatigue.

DESIGN: A descriptive cross-sectional study.

METHODS: One hundred and twenty women treated for gynaecological cancers who were participants in an intervention study were included. Fatigue, psychological distress, health-related QoL and demographics were assessed by questionnaires. Disease and treatment characteristics were extracted from medical records.

RESULTS: Cancer-related fatigue was reported in 53% of the women treated for gynaecological cancers, with a higher proportion in the group of cervical cancer, followed by ovarian cancer. Younger participants reported fatigue more frequently than older participants. When adjusting for age, the type of cancer a woman experiences was shown to have little impact on her risk of experiencing fatigue. The participants with fatigue reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than participants without fatigue. There was a relationship between fatigue and quality of life as measured by SF-36 domains.

CONCLUSION: The findings underscore the importance of screening for fatigue, patient education and symptom management. This should be included in a standard procedure during treatment and follow-up. Both somatic and psychological aspects of fatigue should be emphasised.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The findings imply the need for health personnel to have focus on fatigue during the entire cancer trajectory of women after gynaecological cancers, as well as the need for screening, information, guidance and symptom management.

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