Cancer-related and treatment-related fatigue

Xin Shelley Wang, Jeanie F Woodruff
Gynecologic Oncology 2015, 136 (3): 446-52
Fatigue is a distressing and persistent symptom for patients with gynecological cancer and for survivors. Debilitating cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is produced by both the disease and its treatment. Although awareness and study of CRF have grown in recent years, consistent assessment has not been a priority in routine medical practice. The pathophysiological mechanisms that induce CRF remain unclear, and effective pharmacological interventions have yet to be established. Based on the literature and our own research results, this review focuses on recent progress toward understanding the nature and causes of CRF and on several promising treatment modalities. Given the prevalence and severity of CRF in the gynecological cancer patient population, establishing standardized fatigue measurement and management methods in routine clinical oncology care is of utmost importance. Whether CRF has an underlying inflammatory cause is still hypothetical, however, and no mechanism-driven symptom intervention is currently in clinical use, even though the development of such interventions would provide patients with greater symptom control. Advancing translational and clinical fatigue research will require anatomical pathway studies and well-designed clinical investigations that focus on the development of mechanism-driven interventions based on physiological-behavioral fatigue research, implementation of guidelines for experimental designs, and discovery of biomarkers identifying individuals at high risk for CRF. Validated patient-reported outcomes measures are an essential component of such clinical studies. Because numerous subscales, unidimensional measures, and multidimensional measures exist, clinicians and researchers should consider individual circumstances, good clinical practice, and research goals as guides for choosing the most appropriate fatigue measurement tool. Additionally, education about CRF should be made available to all patients and their caregivers, as accurate and age-appropriate information about conditions like CRF can alleviate much of the stress and anxiety brought on by poor communication about this distressing condition.


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